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May 12, 2011

Robot Used to Inspect Japan's Damaged Power Plant

An underwater robot has been used to take video where it would have been too dangerous for human beings.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the heavily-damaged Fukushima power plant, sent the robot in to shoot footage inside reactor No. 3.

The video clearly reveals that the explosions after the deadly earthquake and tsunami in March “have left the nuclear fuel rods inside the reactor covered in wreckage,” according to a new report from The Telegraph.

Water samples were also collected to give more information about the current state of the reactor. The Telegraph said it appears that fuel rods “were left largely undamaged despite the disaster.”

The explosions took place at four of the buildings at the six-reactor power plant complex.

Roofs and walls were heavily damaged from the explosions, and radioactive materials were scatted as well, The Telegraph reports.

It is expected to take between six and nine months to bring the nuclear plant to a “cold shutdown,” Japanese officials told The Telegraph.

A remote-controlled robot was also sent into the Fukushima nuclear plant last month to check on radiation levels.

The Packbot, from iRobot in Bedford, Mass., was used to inspect buildings too hazardous for human beings, according to The Sun. The Packbot is equipped with cameras and sensors.

About 210,000 people who lived near the power plant were evacuated after the crisis.

The cost of the quake and tsunami could be greater than $300 billion. More than 125,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, authorities said.

In addition, Japanese police have said the disaster led to 14,998 deaths, 5,279 injuries and 9,853 people classified as “missing.”

In news about a different nuclear plant in Japan, Chubu Electric Power Co. will close three nuclear reactors at the Hamaoka plant until it can erect a seawall and other protections against a possible tsunami, according to a report from The Associated Press (News - Alert) carried by TMCnet.

The Japanese government reviewed each of the nation’s 54 reactors for withstanding damage from an earthquake or tsunami after the March 11 crisis.

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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