Toshiba robot set for new Fukushima mission

A new robot developed by Toshiba is on its way to the Fukushima nuclear plant ahead of a mission to investigate deposits inside a reactor.

(Credit: Toshiba)

Designed and built by Toshiba’s Energy Systems & Solutions (Toshiba ESS) division, the robot measures around 30cm long and 10cm wide, weighing approximately 1kg. It features a camera, external LED Lighting, a pan-tilt mechanism, a radiation dosimeter and a thermometer. Unlike other robots that Toshiba has developed for the Fukushima site, the robot is also equipped with a finger drive mechanism for interacting with its environment and exploring the nature of deposits.

The tethered robot will be deployed inside the primary containment vessel (PCV) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2, one of three reactors severely damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. Efforts to decommission all three units have been ongoing since then, with much of the work carried out by robots due to the high levels of radiation that persist in the damaged reactors.

A February 2017 robotic investigation by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) found that part of the grating of the platform inside the PCV of Unit 2 had dropped. A subsequent investigation in January 2018 then showed that there were deposits at the bottom of the PCV. This latest mission will use the newly installed finger drive mechanism to further investigate the nature and condition of these deposits, providing information that will guide the next phases of the Fukushima cleanup.  

“Until now we have only seen those deposits, and we need to know whether they will break off and can be picked up and taken out,” Jun Suzuki, a Toshiba ESS group manager for the project, told Japan Today. “Touching the deposits is important so we can make plans to sample the deposits, which is a next key step.”