New 'transformer' robot changes shape to access deadly Fukushima nuclear facilities

New 'transformer' robot changes shape to access deadly Fukushima nuclear facilities

February 06, 2015

By TSUYOSHI NAGANO/ Staff Writer

HITACHI, Ibaraki Prefecture--A new shape-changing robot has been rolled out that can chart previously inaccessible areas of the damaged containment vessels at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The new device was demonstrated Feb. 5 at a plant owned by Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd., one of the firms involved in its development. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, an organization made up of electric power companies and nuclear power plant manufacturers, developed it with a government subsidy.

The probe was conceived as a way to examine the containment vessels, which are too radioactive for humans to enter. It is scheduled for deployment at the No. 1 reactor building, which contains melted fuel, this spring.

The tubular-shaped robot, measuring 60 centimeters long in its normal state, can transform itself depending on the space it is trying to enter and the task to perform.

In the demonstration at the factory, the robot, in its tubular form, made its way through a pipe with a diameter of 10 cm. On the other side of the pipe, it changed shape to crawl around and capture images of the area.

The plan is to have the probe access the containment vessels through the holes in the wall through which electrical power lines pass.

Because strong radiation is harmful to electronic machines as well, the robot's camera is only guaranteed to function for 10 hours. The device can also take radiation and temperature readings.


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