Skip to Content

The Underwater Robot That Will Repair Fukushima

A robot is being built to venture into the radioactive waters of Fukushima’s worst-hit reactor and remove fuel rods.
January 19, 2016

When an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, causing a catastrophic meltdown and radiation leak, plans to use robots to perform much-needed repairs were quickly dashed. The environment simply proved too complex and unstable for any normal robot to venture into.

In the years since, there have been efforts to develop robots that should be more useful. The disaster inspired a spectacular robot competition called the DARPA Robotics Challenge, designed to simulate rescue efforts. It led to the development of some remarkable new robots capable of working in unstructured environments.

The Japan Times now reports that Toshiba, which manufactured the worst-hit reactor and is helping with the cleanup, has made a two-armed submersible robot that will float into reactor 3 to try to remove debris and retrieve some of the reactor’s fuel rods. The effort shows that, in contrast to all the fancy robots tested at the DARPA challenge, a simple, custom-made machine is sometimes the best solution for a given task.

The new robot is expected to embark on its mission sometime in 2017. Even if it’s successful, the environment will remain too dangerous for humans to go into. But it would be a major step forward in cleaning up the disaster site.

For more, check out this video by the Japan Times:

(source: Japan Times)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.