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article imageDrone being developed to go inside crippled reactors at Fukushima

By Karen Graham     Jun 11, 2015 in Technology
An unmanned drone is being developed to survey the interior of the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. The drone will use lasers to avoid obstacles inside the reactor rooms, and will be able to land and replace its own batteries.
The one-meter wide, six-propeller drone is being developed by Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory Ltd, which manufactures various types of robotic systems, according to the Japan Times.
When it is ready, the unmanned aircraft will start inspecting the buildings in Reactors 1 and 3 at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The drone has a camera, dust collector, and various devices used to measure radiation levels. The lasers will enable the hexacopter to spot and avoid walls and other obstacles inside the buildings. The drone will be able to land and replace its batteries without the need for a human operator.
“I think the drone will be useful as it can be sent to measure radiation levels and contribute to giving the highest priority to human safety,” Kenzo Nonami, a professor at Chiba University and CEO of Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory told Jiji Press.
A test flight was completed recently at the plant's No. 5 reactor building. It escaped any severe damage in the March 2011 disaster. While it is not known when the drone will be used in the damaged reactor buildings, the company is confident their drone will have a significant role to play.
“The time will certainly come when drone technology will be of help,” a member of the development team said. Nonami added, “Once the work shifts to the stage of removing melted nuclear fuel from damaged reactors, radiation doses are expected to rise in the work areas."
Other developments have come to light
It was revealed in May that TEPCO has used at least 16 robots, from military models to radiation-resistant multi-segmented snake-like models, able to fit through small pipes, and all have failed. It was learned the latest model, sent into reactor No. 1 broke down within three-hours of being sent into the building. In all cases, the radiation levels were too high.
On April 21, it was reported that the eight water transfer pumps at the Fukushima-1 power plant had been shut down due to a power failure. TEPCO had to announce that radioactive water was again leaking into the ocean.
The pumps are used to transfer contaminated water from a drainage channel to another channel that leads to and dumps the water into an artificial bay in front of the station, enclosed by a fence.
According to statements issued by TEPCO, and reported by RT News, from May 2011 and August 2013, groundwater leaks ended up dumping as much as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium into the sea.
More about fukushima, autonomous drone, reactor buildings, Laser, radiation levels
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