A few weeks ago, it was reported that four US-made iRobots were sent to Japan to assist nuclear plant workers in areas that are too risky for humans to go inside the radiation-emitting Fukushima power plant.
One wonders why high-tech Japan will need these machines when in fact, the country has sophisticated robotic technology.
The reason is that Japan's robotics is geared towards everyday use and not for disaster recovery. The country did not know that it will need these machines until it was offered to them.
The US has advanced robot technology that is used in disaster situations and in the military. The robots were used after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City that searched for bodies under the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center.
In a report by The Japan Times, the iRobots made by a Massachusetts company are used in Fukushima I to measure the radiation and oxygen levels, temperature and other conditions within the reactors.
Reactor 1 emitted 49 millisieverts per hour of radiation while Reactor 3 registered 57 millisieverts. These are too high for the facility workers where only 50 millisieverts per year is allowed according to US standards, in a report by the AP.
A nuclear official said, "It's a harsh environment for humans to work inside."
The US is also offering Japan an unmanned helicopter to remove spent fuel rods. These are highly radioactive, I believe. So, the use of machines here will minimize risk to humans.
The UK, on the other hand, has also sent four robots but has not yet used them.
Japan's plan to shutdown the plan in six to nine months' time will not change despite the high level of radiation.
An official of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Fukushima I's operator said, "What robots can do is limited, so eventually, people must enter the buildings."
Around 2,500 armies will join the police in search for 1,000 bodies around the damaged plant. Only 66 corpses have been recovered.
Details of this report here.