Monday, April 18, 2011

Robots at Fukushima

packbot What everyone’s been waiting for: Robots:

A U.S.-made robot built for bomb disposal were set to make its way into a reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Sunday to find out whether conditions were safe enough for workers to begin badly needed measures to put the crippled plant under control.

And it’s been busy with other duties, too.

The robot, measuring 70 centimeters long and 53 centimeters wide, has already been used at the Fukushima plant to remove highly-radioactive rubble, that had resulted from the explosions at the reactor buildings.

Made by iRobot, here is the product description for the 510 Packbot, the model being used in Japan:

Modular, adaptable and expandable, 510 PackBot is a tactical mobile robot that performs multiple missions while keeping warfighters and first responders out of harm’s way.

  • Bomb Disposal / EOD (IEDs / VBIEDs / UXO)
  • Surveillance / Reconnaissance
  • Checkpoints / Inspections / Explosives Detection
  • Route Clearance
  • Explosive Hazard Identification (IEDs / VBIEDs / UXOs)
  • Hazardous Materials Detection

More than 3,000 PackBot robots have been delivered to military and civil defense forces worldwide.

So maybe the Japan Self-Defense Force had a few of these around. You can see how it would be useful in this situation. All but one of the robots seem primarily designed to keep soldiers out of harm’s way by engaging in surveillance and toting loads over distances.

And that one robot otherwise deployed? It’s called the Scooba and washes floors. Well, if you’ve got the talent for building robots …


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has redesigned its site, no longer summoning memories of the information superhighway and Adobe PageMill. Information is more accessible – always a plus when there is a lot of it – and it’s altogether more pleasant to visit. The home page is a little crowded but that’s a niggle – it’s so much improved there’s really no comparison.

I’m not absolutely sure what the Packbot is doing here, but I would probably just let it do it.

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