” A new centre will develop and test remote-controlled equipment for use in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant while boosting the local economy in Fukushima prefecture.
Work began on the Naraha Remote Technology Development Centre, which is being built by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), in September 2014. The centre at Nahara-Minami industrial park is due to begin full operations in the 2016 fiscal year. The complex will house a mock-up of the lower part of a reactor containment vessel, representing the interior of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as well as an indoor demonstration test area for disaster response robots which will also be used to train operators and workers.
The centre will provide facilities for the development of simulators and remote-controlled robots to demonstrate technology for use in situations such as repairing leakages in the lower parts of Fukushima’s primary containment vessel and inside the reactor buildings. The facility will enable devices to be tested in environments including a water tank, barriers, slopes, stairs and rubble. Virtual reality systems will be developed to evaluate operating procedures and for training.
As well as the buildings where experimental work will take place, the facility will also include living accommodation for researchers and staff as well as conference and training facilities. The facility is within 20 km of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and it is hoped that its work will contribute to the revitalization of the local economy.
In an interview with the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum’s(JAIF) Atoms in Japan, Hiroshi Kawamura, director of nuclear plant decommissioning research at JAEA, outlined his vision for the new centre, saying he was keen to attract creative researchers and engineers from Japan and elsewhere, “We should see our work as taking steps forward, not as cleaning up a mess,” he said.
The project is already drawing interest from overseas, and Kawamura said that as well as tackling the immediate challenges posed by Fukushima, the facilities could be used to test robots for use in other challenging working environments. ”