Five years down the line, after the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, and the halls of reactor 3’s building are still racked with radiation. Although clean-up efforts have already helped to contain some radioactive material, the plant’s manager still estimates there’s another 30 to 40 years before a full decommissioning. So, to help with the long process of making the plant safe, Toshiba has announced its latest robot to remove reactor 3’s nuclear fuel rods, The Japan Times reports.
The robot consists of two arms and a “fuel grapple tool” that is capable of gripping fuel rods and snipping up debris. It will also be equipped with numerous live feed cameras, so it can be operated by remote control from a safe distance. The Japan Times also released a video, below, showing off the new nuclear bin man. Its job is to delve into the damaged cooling pools to reach and dispose of the 566 used nuclear fuel rods.
Removal of the nuclear fuel rods is one of the most menacing and important parts of the clean up. Even after these radioactive rods are “spent” and placed into a cooling pool, they can remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years – especially if they’re not properly disposed of.
In 2014, the plant managed to dispose of 1,535 spent fuel rod assemblies from the cooling pool from reactor 4. However, this was a comparatively easy job, as the safer radiation levels present in the building meant technicians could stand by the pool to oversee the operation.
Toshiba, the manufacturer of many household gadgets and electronics, also manufactured two of the reactors at Fukushima. This isn’t the first piece of kit Toshiba has designed to help the radioactive sweep up, either. In 2014, it created a four-legged inspection bot to help survey the plant’s off-reach areas. In a statement, Toshiba said it will continue to develop technology that will help towards decommissioning the plant.
It's hoped the robot will get to work by 2017. After that, the plant plans to cover the pools in an attempt to contain the radiation.