Radiation in Fukushima was so bad, they couldn’t afford to send people into some places. It turns out, the radiation was so high that even the chrome-domed replacements didn’t fare much better.
“It is extremely difficult to access the inside of the nuclear plant,” Naohiro Masuda, Tepco’s head of decommissioning said. “The biggest obstacle is the radiation.”
The solution? Robots. The problem? Robots.
“It takes two years to develop a single-function robot,” Masuda said.
As soon as Tepco’s robots, co-designed with Toshiba, get close to Reactor 3, their circuitry gets destroyed by the radiation. The robots are designed to “swim” in the radiated pools where the radioactive fuel rods are located, to search for and recover them.
The robots are unable to enter Reactor 3 because of the concentrated levels of radiation compared to the lesser toxic Reactor 4, where 1,535 fuel rod assemblies had previously been removed. Workers were also able to stand near enough to the pool to directly observe the process in Reactor 4.
This is the same company, mind you, which “accidentally” used radiation monitoring equipment which maxed out at 100mSv when the radiation was 18 times higher – nobody was concerned that the reading was stuck at 100 for really long periods of time, apparently.
Tepco claims that the radiation levels in many locations at the site have fallen dramatically. We were unable to verify if they were using the correct equipment at this time. However, more than 8,000 human workers continue to risk their lives clearing the site of debris at any one time throughout the day.