A View from Christopher Mims
Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Now Crawling With Robots (Video)
Portable robots prove they finally have the range and power to be useful in a disaster
Parts of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have joined the surface of Mars and the blast radius of an IED as environments so harsh that they can be braved only by robots. On Sunday TEPCO, the Japanese utility responsible for Fukushima, sent a pair of iRobot packbots into parts of the plant that have not been seen since the facility was evacuated in the wake of a strike by a tsunami. Packbots are best known for having been deployed with the U.S. Army throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.
Interior rooms of reactors 1 and 3, which the robots entered with video cameras and sensors for radiation, temperature and humidity, proved to be intact despite the explosions of hydrogen gas at both. Elsewhere in the complex, a remote-controlled excavator, transporter and helicopter have been put to use in order to explore areas too contaminated with radiation for humans.