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article imageFukushima Reactor Unit No.1 — robot stalls but sends great images

By Karen Graham     Apr 13, 2015 in Environment
The special robot sent into the core of reactor no. 1 at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant stalled after only three hours, but completed two-thirds of its journey. In the process some amazing video pictures of the damage were recorded.
TEPCO spokesman Teruaki Kobayashi said on Monday that while the robot stalled two-thirds of the way into the containment vessel, the data collected indicates a path does exist that would allow robots to go deeper into the reactor.
The TEPCO officials said temperature and radiation levels were recorded and images of parts of the platform around the pedestal area below the reactor core were taken before the robot became stuck. The one-time use robot was unrecoverable.
A second robot mission planned for today was canceled while engineers investigate the cause of the stalling of the first robot. Kobayashi said it is possible the tread may have become stuck in the grating, or in a gap somehow.
The setback is difficult for TEPCO, and until it is known for sure whether the fuel rods in the Unit 1 reactor have all melted and breached the core, nothing can be safely done. And TEPCO officials admit that they must determine the exact condition of the melted fuel debris and develop remote-controlled and radiation-resistant robots to deal with the fuel because it is too dangerous for humans, even in protective suits.
The decommissioning of the nuclear plant will take more than 40 years and cost billions of dollars, according to many estimates. All six reactors must be dismantled, and this includes the delicate process of removing the melted fuel, as well as removing all the extra fuel rods which sit in cooling pools on top of the reactor buildings.
This is a mock-up of the site where the robot got stuck. There is an existing pipe and some parts of...
This is a mock-up of the site where the robot got stuck. There is an existing pipe and some parts of the grating, or an uneven joint that caused the robot to stall.
TEPCO
The photographs were captured as part of the robot s mission to inspect melted fuel in one of the re...
The photographs were captured as part of the robot's mission to inspect melted fuel in one of the reactors.
TEPCO
The first pictures sent back from inside the reactor unit no. 1.
The first pictures sent back from inside the reactor unit no. 1.
TEPCO
Japan will make an exit from "zero nuclear power" in 2015
Despite the setbacks plaguing TEPCO and the rise in anti-nuclear protests, Japan's pro-nuclear lobby promised on Monday that 2015 will be the year that the country's nuclear reactors are restarted.
Speaking before an audience of around 900 people, Takashi Imai, the chairman of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum promised, “This year marks the exit from zero nuclear power." Pointing out the need for a stable power supply, he added, “It is self-evident that nuclear power plants that have passed safety tests should be restarted as soon as possible."
The push for restarting the nuclear power plants comes as Japan prepares to decide on a new energy policy, determining how much electricity will come from renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels. This will have to be in line with it pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions before the start of the global climate summit later this year.
Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says “Despite the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident, nuclear power has continued to play an important part in the global energy mix."
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