An advanced remote-controlled robot capable of assessing its surroundings in detail and designed to help decommission reactors at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is set to start its performance trials next month.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is set to confirm the operational abilities of the robot, equipped with cameras with a 360-degree view and lasers capable of mapping the surroundings in 3D, before using it for decontamination work.
Decommissioning the No. 1 plant's reactors is expected to take 30-40 years. Along the way, workers will eventually have to enter the reactor buildings, but TEPCO must first carry out decontamination work in the structures to reduce high radiation levels. The utility has been attempting to clean up the reactor building interiors by using other robots. However, efforts have been hampered by the lack of information on just how much wreckage has been strewn about and where it is, and the many obstacles have frequently halted work.
The new robot's 360-degree view cameras -- developed by the University of Tokyo, the University of Tsukuba and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID), among other organizations -- will help cleanup workers get a better look at what they're up against. The device is in fact four cameras mounted high on the tracked robot, with the video feed displayed on-screen as a single all-round view.
"We've expanded the field of vision, so it should give the workers operating the robot a bird's-eye view of what they're doing," commented the project chief at IRID.
Meanwhile, the onboard lasers will allow the robot to calculate where surrounding wreckage and machinery is in the reactor buildings' interiors, and the information will be displayed in the video feed in 3D.