The dangerous and unenviable task of cleaning up the Fukushima reactor has hit its latest snag: two snake-like reconnaissance bots had to be abandoned inside the reactor, after one got stuck and another’s camera was damaged by radiation.
The Fukushima clean-up relies almost entirely on robots because radiation levels inside the reactor are still too dangerous for humans. TEPCO, the company managing the efforts, has a small robot army, designed to do everything ranging from radiation measurement to decontamination with dry-ice blasts.
The two lost robots were both shape-changing inspection bots designed to investigate the floor of the reactor’s containment vessel. The first, sent in on April 10, got stuck after just a few hours, blocking the path of other robots. A second was dispatched from a different path a few days later, but engineers decided to abandon it when a camera used to monitor its progress malfunctioned because of radiation. The first robot did record some video and the second some radiation and temperature readings, so it wasn’t a total waste.
But overall, cleanup efforts at Fukushima has been notoriously problematic. Here’s to hoping that other robots won’t meet a similarly premature end.
Top image: The snake-like robot being shown to photographers in February. AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi. Middle image: TEPCO