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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Nuclear Watch: Know-how from overseas

May 26, 2015


Know-how from Overseas

A group of experts from Japan has been on a mission overseas. They went in search of technologies to help advance the decommissioning process at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima.

The group's members are from the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation. Experts estimate it will take 40 years to decommission the plant's reactors. They say relying on Japanese technologies alone won't be enough to get the job done.

Mamoru Numata is from the organization. He says, "We need to look meticulously into technologies not only from Japan but from abroad as well."

The inspectors traveled to the US state of South Carolina to meet with researchers at the Savannah River National Laboratory. The lab was a hub for nuclear weapons development during the Cold War. It produced plutonium for nuclear bombs.

Cleaning up leftover radioactive substances is an ongoing job. The lab continues to come up with new technologies to make the job go smoothly. One in particular caught the eye of the Japanese inspectors. It's a system designed to provide a virtual tour of a building's interior.

A researcher at the facility says, "We can plan it here in the virtual world, practice in the virtual world. We can put robotics in the virtual world or virtual robots."

The system uses information on the layout and the positioning of equipment to generate 3-dimensional images. Those images can be combined with radiation data collected remotely by robot. This allows workers to determine how much radiation they could be exposed to inside.

The inspectors also went to a trade show in Arizona featuring decommissioning technologies from around the world. The show featured one type of technology that could be used immediately in Fukushima.

It's a foam made from a mixture of chemicals, including a detergent. Scientists from an American company and a national research institute developed it.

The inspectors thought the foam could be used in pipes at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. They're full of radioactive substances. Cleaning the pipes is one of the biggest challenges in the decontamination effort.

The inspectors say that injecting the foam into the pipes could loosen up contaminated substances and make cleaning them easier.

The foam has already been used in decontamination projects. The manufacturer says it successfully removed at least 90 percent of the radioactivity.

Numata says, "I hope we can gather decontamination technologies from around the world and apply them in Fukushima."

The people in charge of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant face a number of hurdles. The biggest is the dangerous job of removing melted nuclear fuel from the damaged reactors.

The inspectors will keep searching for cutting-edge technologies from Japan, and overseas, to meet the challenges.

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