NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Four years after Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power Co. engineers have developed a method to inspect the damage within the three compromised reactors.
To do this, engineers created a custom snake-like inspection crawler designed specifically to navigate the complex interior of the reactors. Equipped with a series of Inuktun’s stainless steel Microtrac™ components, the remotely driven robot will slither through a four inch pipe, then dangle itself and descend on to a platform just below the reactor core’s bottom.
There, it will send back valuable information such as live images (it is equipped with a lighting system and high definition camera), temperatures and radiation levels from within the reactor and transmit them to workers located in a safe control room.
The information gathered will allow workers to repair the damaged reactors so they can be filled with water to safely remove radioactive debris. It is expected to be another five years to complete the work in all three reactors, and different crawler designs are required for each of the three reactors that require remediation.
Inuktun’s Microtrac™ systems are designed to operate in extremely harsh and, as in this case, radioactive environments, which made them the clear choice to assist at Fukushima.
“We are proud to be supplying components for the robots used in the remediation taking place at Fukushima,” said Colin Dobell, president and CEO of Inuktun. “Our remote inspection crawlers are designed to operate in confined, harsh and dangerous environments, and in places where humans simply can’t or shouldn’t work. Using these systems to assess the reactor damage is a pivotal early step in decommissioning the plant.”
The project is a joint effort between the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning with financial assistance from the Japanese government, and support from Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy and Revast Corp.
Examining how much damage was done to the reactors is expected to be an important first step in decommissioning the Fukushima plant. Once each robot has completed its mission, they will be stored permanently in a special radioactive-proof box.