6 Février 2015
February 6, 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.
Feb. 6, 2015 - Updated 04:54 UTC+1
Japanese engineers have unveiled a shape-changing crawler robot designed to inspect crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, a Hitachi subsidiary, and others developed the robot to probe the interior of reactor containment vessels.
The remote-controlled machine measures roughly 20 centimeters long, 30 centimeters wide and 10 centimeters high in its rectangular configuration. It can transform into a rod-like form to crawl through narrow pipes, such as those leading to the containment vessels.
The robot is equipped with a camera, dosimeter and thermometer.
The company showed the robot on Thursday to reporters in Hitachi City, northeast of Tokyo. The machine rearranged itself into a rod-like shape and went through a pipe 10 centimeters wide and 5 meters long.
It then changed back into its rectangular form, moved down to the floor, and traveled across the uneven surface.
Hitachi-GE officials say the robot will be used at the No.1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi in April or May.
Radiation levels inside containment vessels there are too high for humans due to the 2011 nuclear accident.
Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy engineer Yoshinori Takahashi said it will be the first inspection of a container vessel by a self-propelled robot. He expressed hope that the robot will collect a variety of data to help with decommissioning work at the Fukushima reactors.