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Latest Robots Sent Into Fukushima Power Plant Die; Authorities Question Whether Technology That Can Withstand Radiation Levels Can Be Developed

by Greg White, The Sleuth Journal:

Last Friday marked the fifth year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and radiation levels are still too high for both humans and robots. The remote controlled robots that were sent into the crippled nuclear reactors have died due to toxic levels of radiation, which tampered with their wiring.

In March 2011, a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami off the coast of Japan, causing three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant to melt to their core. Since then, hundreds of tons of radioactive waste has been leaking into the air, land and sea.

Approximately $21 billion has been spent on decommissioning the power plant, some of which went to a network of robots that were designed to withstand radiation levels lethal to humans. The robots took years to manufacture. They were created to swim through cooling pools at the power plant, which are no longer in operation, and remove hundreds of melted fuel rods. The melted fuel rods are one of the foremost sources of radiation and their disposal is proving to be increasingly difficult.

Sent into the abyss

In wake of the 2011 disaster, five robots that were sent into the power plant have died due to exposure to lethal amounts of radiation. The robots were sent in by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in an effort to dispose nuclear rods in areas that were difficult to reach. Although the robots were designed to withstand high levels of radiation, their  lifespan was shorter than authorities expected.

It’s uncertain whether technology that can withstand the radiation can be developed. The last robot to use muons, tiny subatomic particles 200 times heavier than electrons, to pinpoint the location of the missing nuclear fuel returned “grainy” images before it was lost.

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