Cleaning robots for the Fukushima nuclear power plant

In Fukushima, Japan, the city is synonymous with an exemplary nuclear disaster, much like Chernobyl.

May 30, 2024
2 min read
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Super-GAU at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011
Super-GAU at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011


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After 13 years, the super-GAU incident is still being discussed. - Cleaning robots for the Fukushima nuclear power plant

Following a devastating earthquake on March 11, 2011, a tsunami surged toward the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The results were calamitous: Reactors 1 to 4 suffered complete power loss. Nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen blasts, and vast quantities of radioactive material were released into the environment.

More than 13 years have elapsed since the mishap. Yet, the radioactive fuel rods of the nuclear power station have not been extracted. This year, an attempt to recover them is anticipated - with state-of-the-art robots.

Persistent Delays

The molten fuel rods of Reactor Daiichi 2 were planned to be extracted by the end of 2021. That was the objective of the power plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), as mentioned in the magazine "Research and Knowledge".

Ongoing challenges and delays arose throughout the intricate process. TEPCO intends to remove the molten, highly radioactive material this year with robots, as per "Research and Knowledge".

The initial experiments involving the robots in a Mitsubishi shipyard were deemed successful. "The remotely controlled robots successfully removed granules from a sand pile using a telescopic lens and a claw," stated the magazine. These granules are believed to be akin to the fuel rod fragments of the nuclear power plant.

Decommissioning in 30 to 40 years

TEPCO intends to use the robots to commence removing test samples from Reactor Daiichi 2 this year. The plan is to initially extract three grams of highly radioactive material.

"We believe that the upcoming removal of fuel rod debris from Block 2 is a critical milestone to continue the decommissioning project," states a TEPCO representative in the same magazine.

Approximately 880 tons of liquid nuclear fuel is estimated to be housed in the three impaired reactors. "Moreover, the safety containers of the three reactors, as observed by mini-drones, have disparate damage levels." The robots must be customized to meet the varying conditions before they can be employed.

TEPCO projects to decommission the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 30 to 40 years with the assistance of robots. However, independent experts view this timeline as overly optimistic.

The remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) was developed to inspect the interior of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 nuclear power plant

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