I was just going to ask this question. I know the Japanese have a fire-fighting robot, and if I worked for the company that produced it and it could be remotely guided into the plant to direct water onto the spent fuel rods? Hell yes, I’d offer it!
Part of my question is not understanding the technical difficulties involved. I know they have bomb squad robots that can navigate wirelessly or with a long attached cable. Why can’t they mount a few cameras and radioactivity detectors on those and send them to the edge of the pool?
As for UAVs, the US already sent in a Global Hawk; why aren’t there more constantly patrolling the area?
Wouldn’t the robots have to be shielded to prevent the radioactivity from messing up their circuits? And they probably aren’t, since such shielding would make the too robots heavy & unwieldy for normal use.
It might just be a case of the UAVs the US has not generally being suited to monitoring the status of a nuclear reactor. It’s also possible that they just don’t have many UAVs in Japan, with many/most of them being deployed to the middle east. Alternately, they might just feel that the UAVs are not necessary due to the environment not being considered a high risk for manned flights (I don’t know this one way or the other, this is just me thinking out loud).
That said, they have been sending U-2 flights from Osan AB in Korea to take high-resolution photos of the affected areas, to help with the relief efforts.
As far as robots to go work in and around the reactors themselves, they might just not have robos with those capabilities, or not in sufficient numbers to make a difference.
they used remote controlled bulldozers at chernobyl, and yes they stopped working after several days. (it’s in the documentaries can’t find a web cite right now).
I believe they tried to use these to clear the roof before sending in the “biorobots” or “liquidators” which were 10,000 USSR army members who worked in 7 minute shifts to clear graphite off the roof of chernobyl.
But the roof of chernobyl was 5,000-10,000 roentgens per hour… much much much higher than what’s been reported at Fukushima.
my WAG the radiation of 400 mSv/hour at Fukushima isn’t enough to fry ordinary circuits.
I think everyone is ignoring the real reason. If robots are sent in and exposed to that much radiation, they will become intelligent or insane and rebel against humanity. We’ll need to assemble a crack team of the cutest schoolgirls and arm them with heavy weapons and send them to fight the killer robots.
You may/not be kidding but I’m not kidding when I say that I swear to God their robotics efforts have been significantly compromised by their obsession with anthropomorphic humanoid robots to the exclusion of all else.
When pressed on why it’s just so important that the robot look like an anime character (as so many prototypes do), my Japanese engineer friends mumble some standard lame excuse about how robots will be very necessary in dealing with medical care for the aging population, and elderly sick people will be scared/troubled by an overly-mechanical looking apparatus without a human face.
The reality, and you’ll never convince me otherwise, is that Japanese robotics research is being driven 75% by those little perverts’ quest for the perfect schoogirl sexbot.
From that one guy… “[robots have been kept out of the industry in part because] nuclear plant operators don’t liked to think about serious situations that are beyond human control”. Not terribly reassuring, heh.