Mitsubishi is the latest company from Japan to come up with a robot that could clean up the Fukushima nuclear power plant – despite dangerously high levels of radiation.
The recent unveiling of the new remote-controlled robot follows similar presentations by Hitachi and Toshiba.
Robots were sent into the plant to assist in the cleanup following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which heavily damaged the facility. Among those now in the plant are robots made by Qinetiq. iRobot's PackBot has also been in use at the plant, SDNzone said.
Called MEISTeR (Maintenance Equipment Integrated System of Telecontrol Robot), the Mitsubishi robot is about four-feet tall and features two arms. Each arm can carry up to 33 pounds. It also has tools to cut pipes and take samples of radioactive materials.
What is perhaps unique about the robot is its electronics which have been “hardened to withstand radiation,” according to The BBC.
There is a limit to what it can do in a damaged nuclear plant, according to Jeremy Pitt, deputy head of the Intelligent Systems and Networks Group at Imperial College London.
"Operating in extreme environments requires a remarkable range of human skills that might otherwise be taken for granted," Pitt told The BBC. "Fundamentally, instead of programming a robot to follow a precise series of actions, in open environments the requirement is to programme it to improvise. This requires a fusion of conscious reasoning mechanisms, like learning, with subconscious sensing mechanisms."
Another big problem is that it becomes difficult to perform maintenance on any robot placed in a damaged nuclear facility due to the risk of human beings getting radiation exposure.
Earlier this year, Toshiba’s Tetrapod was also presented, after it was designed to withstand higher levels of radiation. But at a media event Tetrapod froze while trying to gain balance.
The Fukushima plant is supposed to be taken apart after a cleanup which may take crews decades. Damage there was extensive; explosions occurred at four of the buildings at the six-reactor power plant complex. Roofs and walls were heavily damaged and radioactive materials were scatted.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman