July 7, 2015, News.com.au:
” A NEW robot that raises its tail like a scorpion is scheduled to look at melted nuclear fuel inside one of the three wrecked Fukushima reactors in Japan.
Toshiba Corp., co-developer of the “scorpion” crawler that was demonstrated today, said the robot will venture into the Unit 2 reactor’s primary containment vessel in August after a month of training for its handlers.
But even metal and silicon cannot hold up to the intensity of radiation within a nuclear reactor for long.
The robot has enough radiation tolerance to allowing it to stay about 10 hours inside the Unit 2 reactor.
Toshiba officials say they hope the robot can capture images of deeper areas of the vessel, though the primary focus is the platform area, so they can design a more suitable robot that can go deeper into the vessel.
Officials hope the robot can see the fuel in the pressure vessel in the middle of the reactor. The position of the toppled fuel rods hasn’t been located exactly and studied because of the high radiation levels.
The scorpion robot is the second to enter a primary containment vessel, after “snake” robots were sent in April inside the worst-hit Unit 1. One of the two robots used in that reactor became stuck and had to be left behind, and neither was able to spot the melted fuel debris.
This time, the scorpion crawler, which is 54 centimetres long when extended, will enter through a duct designed as a passageway for fuel rods. Toshiba has no back up machine.
The robot’s entry is just the beginning of the reactor investigation required before the most challenging task of removing the melted fuel.
The difficult work of decommissioning the Fukushima plant damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami will take decades.
During the demonstration at a Toshiba lab near Tokyo, the robot slid down a railing as it stretched out like a bar, with a head-mounted LED showing its way. After crawling over a slight gap and landing on a metal platform, the robot lifted its tail, as if looking up at the bottom of the control rod drive, a structure above the platform where some melted nuclear fuel might be left.
The scorpion also demonstrated it can roll back upright if it hits an obstacle and rolls over. The ability comes from a tail joint in the middle that bends.
One operator controls the robot with a joystick, and another monitors a video feed from the robot and other data. At the Fukushima plant, the robot will be operated remotely from a command centre in a separate building.
The work is planned for a full day. ”
source with video and photos
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Posted July 2, 2015, Paleofuture:
” When the 2011 earthquake in Japan damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, teams scrambled to find a robot that could go where humans couldn’t. In many ways those robots failed, and ever since, there has been a focus on creating robots that can get the job done. Enter Toshiba’s “Scorpion” robot, which will make its way inside the power plant this August.
The Scorpion is just 21 inches long and is operated by remote control. The robot has cameras on both front and back, as well as LED lights to help light the way. What is Scorpion looking for? Fuel amongst the debris, which will give teams a better sense of how the decades-long clean-up at the reactors should proceed.
Back in April, teams sent a snake-like robot inside one of the nuclear reactors but didn’t find what they were looking for. That robot stopped working after just three hours in one of the reactors. A second snake-bot was sent in a few days later but that one stopped working in short order as well.
The Scorpion is said to be specially designed to operate in the highly radioactive environment. Teams expect the robot to be able to function for 10 hours inside the plant. But we’ll have to wait and see.
The main focus of last month’s DARPA Robotics Challenge was to develop robots for emergency scenarios. And that competition, along with the relatively primitive capabilities of a robot like Scorpion show that we have quite a long ways to go before robots are performing the human-like tasks that we’d like them to in disaster scenarios. ”
source with photos
Also read about the DARPA Robotics Challenge in this Japan Times article, “Robots compete in Fukushia-inspired U.S. challenge“