Six years ago, a tsunami and earthquake devastated parts of Japan’s coastline in 2011, killing more than 18,000 people and more than a million buildings destroyed., it also hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant, triggering the worst nuclear meltdown since the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Parts of the damaged reactors are still highly contaminated with radiation.
Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco), in charge of the facility at the time of the earthquake and now they heading the current reconnaissance process, decided to use robots with cameras to investigate since the radiation levels are too high for a human being. But in certain sectors, the levels far exceed the 73 sieverts that can support the machines (a person exposed to 10 sieverts dies in a couple of weeks).
Tepco has admitted that its efforts to probe the site are repeatedly failing due to incredibly high levels of radiation. Robots keep getting fried on their missions, exactly from radiation damage or stranded on-site and died five times faster than expected.
As a ray of hope, the Japan-based International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) with the help of Toshiba has unveiled the robot, dubbed ‘mini manbo’ (little sunfish). It is a small swimming robot that will inspect the damage at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. The robot’s radiation resistance is approximately 200 Sievert (Sv), according to its characteristics. The robot “is small enough and resilient enough to enter and inspect the damaged primary containment vessel [PCV] of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 3,” a statement from the IRID said, adding that the device will be deployed next month.
So far, it has estimated that about 600 tons of nuclear waste, a project that would cost $ 35 billion and take between 35 and 40 years to complete, is expected to be removed. A post-tsunami investigation revealed that the safety plans of the Fukushima nuclear plant were obsolete and that the disaster could have been avoided.