A Disaster that is too hot for emergency robots
Fire services around the world are looking to robots to do the dangerous work, but there are locations that even robots cannot go.
One of the tools used to get data and do repairs at one of the worlds highest profile disaster zones, Fukushima, Japan, have been failing. The robots sent into the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant have been dying. Despite being designed to get data from its damaged reactors, the robots were, with few exceptions, wrecked within hours. The radioactivity inside has been too high for their electronics – a hurdle that must be overcome if all the melted uranium fuel rods in the reactor buildings are to be found and ways to remove them are to be developed. Chief decommissioning officer Naohiro Masuda said, “We may need to use new robots or use different approaches, but we keep trying as we gain new knowledge and experiences through this trial and error process.”
Some 160,000 people were forced from their homes after the nuclear accident, and the Japanese authorities had expected that at least 70 percent of them would return by last spring. But that hoped-for homecoming has not happened.
One thing is clear: The crisis that the rest of the world thought was over, nearly seven years after a 9.0 undersea earthquake unleashed a tsunami that tore through Japan’s northeastern coast – including the Daiichi nuclear plant – is really not.
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