Robots keep “dying” from radiation in Fukushima, making the nuclear fallout investigation impossible

Thursday, March 9, 2017
By Paul Martin

by: Tracey Watson
Thursday, March 09, 2017

On 11 March 2011, Japan was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, followed shortly thereafter by a huge tsunami, leaving 16,000 people dead and 160,000 homeless. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant, one of the 15 largest in the world, sustained serious damage in the disaster, resulting in the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) – the company that operated the plant before the disaster – has spent the last six years trying to contain the mess and figuring out how to clean it up.

In spite of all their efforts to contain the radiation and prevent it from contaminating the groundwater, TEPCO has made very little progress. It is estimated that the decommissioning of the plant will take 40 years and cost many billions of dollars. Part of the problem is the fact that radiation levels are so high that humans would die if they got close, but it is vital to try to find out what damage has been sustained. Robotic engineer, Hiroshi Endo, told the LA Times that what happens inside a nuclear reactor after a meltdown is unknown, and the environment is less predictable than space. TEPCO’s solution has been to send more than 100 robots in to try to assess the damage, but this plan has proven less than satisfactory, because the radiation is proving to be too much for the robots, and they, too, keep “dying.”

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