JAEA opens Fukushima R&D center for decommissioning reactors — The Asahi Shimbun

” NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–The Japan Atomic Energy Agency officially christened its new facility here on Oct. 19 that will develop technologies to decommission the reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Naraha Remote Technology Development Center will conduct research to develop remote-control decommissioning technologies as radiation levels within the reactors remain too high for workers to enter following a triple meltdown in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The opening ceremony was attended by 105 people, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, science and technology minister Hiroshi Hase and Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori.

“The decommissioning process is a lengthy one that will take up to 40 years,” Abe said. “This facility was set up to consolidate the world’s knowledge to face the unknown.”

Featuring a life-sized mock-up of a damaged reactor and virtual reality systems, the center will test new machines and methods to remotely remove nuclear fuel from the Fukushima plant.

Experts hope that research and development at the facility will lead to a reduction in the number of failures of devices deployed at the crippled plant.

Abe witnessed a demonstration of a new scorpion-shaped robot, which will eventually be deployed inside the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima plant.

The Naraha center will also erect in March a life-sized model of a reactor suppression chamber located beneath the containment vessel that was damaged in the 2011 disaster. Because the containment vessel has to be filled with water to remove the melted fuel inside, researchers plan to first develop technology to patch up the container to prevent leaks.

The facility is also equipped with a virtual reality system that projects onto a screen a computer-generated world simulating the space inside the damaged reactor buildings. The interior layouts of the crippled buildings are based on data collected by remote control robots deployed at the plant.

The technology will devise routes in removing melted fuel, along with coming up with methods to minimize the amount of radiation that workers will be exposed to.

The JAEA is also setting up a facility in Okuma to monitor the amount of radioactive materials inside the plant grounds. A total of 85 billion yen ($711.4 million) will be used to build the two JAEA facilities.

“There are still 100,000 people evacuated from the disaster,” said Toshio Kodama, JAEA president. “We hope to fulfill the role the JAEA is meant to play in the decommissioning process.” ”

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Robotic technology development center for Fukushima — World Nuclear News

” 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. ”

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