A pair of iRobot’s PackBots crossed the threshold of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan for the very first time since the disaster struck Japan. Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the plant operator is hopeful that these robots would be able to give information on the current situation inside the buildings especially in places, which were inaccessible to workers due to the hazardous and high levels of radioactivity.
The robots went into the number 3 reactor building to record the temperature and the radiation readings. They come outfitted with video cameras, which would give a live relay to the operators. TEPCO has broadcast some photos of the robots, which were trying to manipulate a handle on the double doors of the reactor building. No further information has been released regarding the findings of the robots. The robots would also be used in the adjacent reactor buildings 1 and 2 within the plant, if this mission proved to be successful.
TEPCO has been struggling to control the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for almost a month since the tsunami and its aftermath consisting of explosions, which damaged three of the structures in the plant and also spread radioactive gases into the environment. Initially, workers valiantly entered the buildings trying to contain the disaster but could not withstand the radiation levels. Currently, TEPCO has started sending in robots, which were remotely controlled along with other machinery to get a better idea of the situation inside the plant.
A transporter and an excavator, controlled remotely are being utilized for clearing the rubble surrounding the plant and an unmanned helicopter is being used to take videos of the upper and the outside areas of the reactor buildings. The PackBots, designed for use in hazardous settings, entered recently into the plant and would be the first to capture the images of the interiors of the plant’s lower levels. To date, over 3000 of these robots have been supplied to both civilian and military customers and could be used even for applications such as bomb defusing.