福島原発へ『モニロボ』出動! 文科省が派遣

Mitsui Engineering's Monirobo. From http://getnews.jp/archives/105041

 

Reader Chris commented,

25 years ago at Chernobyl, they sent a camera into the wreckage. It seemed useful. I believe it was strapped to a childs’ toy remote controlled car.
Hmmm… Now, I assumed Japan was capable of very advanced technology, robots/cameras/miniturization/sensors/sophistication/lighting tech./computers/ETC.+ETC. +ETC! and all this with the benefit of 25 years of development AND not limited by the then retro closed Soviet socialism. Japan is an odd society, but please! Where’s the tech?

Well, it’s coming. Better late than never, spose. Some Google results for a search on “Fukushima + robots“:

  1. (31 Mar 2011) A top Energy Department official told a Senate panel Tuesday that a shipment of “radiation hardened robotics” will be sent to Japan to assist in the crisis. A department spokeswoman said a robotic device from the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory is being shipped along with several radiation-hardened cameras. Peter Lyons, an acting assistant energy secretary, said Japanese officials were “very, very interested” in learning more about the capabilities of U.S. robots. The United States is also sending robot operators who would be used to train Japanese operators, Lyons said.    via U.S. sending radiation-hardened robots to assist at plant | The Japan Times Online.
  2. (28 Mar 2011 ) Almost a week ago, I asked, “Where are the robots?” to deal with the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Brian Vastag of the Washington Post has done some reporting, and discovered they are in Europe:Inside a nondescript warehouse south of Mannheim, Germany, a dozen robots, ranging in size from a low-slung inspection bot no bigger than a toy wagon to a 22-ton Caterpillar excavator, stand ready to respond to a nuclear emergency. With their electronics hardened to withstand radiation, the versatile machines can handle fuel rods as well as monitor doses that would kill a human engineer.A similar robotic quick-response squad is housed near the Chinon nuclear power plant in France.But in Japan, where the Fu­kushima Daiichi nuclear crisis drags into its third week, the question is: Where are the robots?   via American Thinker Blog: Robots MIA in Fukushima. [Clearly, Japan needs a quick-response nuclear-emergency robot squad, like the French and the Germans have.]
  3. (24 Mar 2011) There are two Monirobo machines in use presently: the yellow and a red one. The red one was put into action early last week, but doesn’t have the flammable gas sensor and as good of a data collection tool as the yellow model.As well a Monirobo, US Air Force drone Global Hawk has been flying over the plant despite the no-fly zone, providing detailed images of what is happening on the ground. Other robots in Japan were also developed for helping out in case of a nuclear emergency after the Tokaimura disaster. However, none of these were ever adopted because, according to The New Scientist, the “nuclear industry claimed that their plants were safe”.    via Radiation detector robot deployed in Fukushima – robotics, Japan earthquake – ARN. [Oops, another black mark against TEPCO; altho it is not the only owner of nuclear power plants in Japan, it is, I think, the largest]
  4. (24 Mar 2011) TEPCo summoned a small corps of military-grade robots last week from iRobot Corp. in Bedford, Mass. Japan’s Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. last week sent its Disaster Monitoring Robot, or Moni-Robo, to the Daiichi site as well. Other robotics companies, including Canada’s Inuktun Services, are also fielding inquiries about how their technology might be of use. Each of the robots of interest moves on tracks and features a mechanical hand that can be used to lift and manipulate objects.The roles that robots might play in Japan will depend upon the emergency responders’ priorities, whether this includes handling intensely hot or radioactive materials or, later removing sludge from the site or drilling core samples to determine how deeply radiation may have penetrated the facility’s walls and floor, says William “Red” Whittaker, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor and director of the Field Robotics Center at the school’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh. Whittaker and several Carnegie Mellon colleagues built robots in the late 1970s and early 1980s to inspect and perform repairs in the basement of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station following the near meltdown there in 1979.    via Robots Arrive at Fukushima Nuclear Site with Unclear Mission: Scientific American.
  5. This New Scientist article announcing the arrival of the MoniRobo in Fukushima is dated March 18. TEPCO needs an English-speaking/Western PR media manager. Surely pictures of these MoniRobos should have been issued to the media sooner? Perhaps they held back because they weren’t sure if these robots would do any good: not a smart move to shout “The Robots have Arrived!!” and then a coupla days later, have to admit they can’t use them because of scattered debris everywhere or the remotes ran out of batteries or something. Even so…