Underwater robot probes inside Fukushima reactor
TOKYO – Agence France-PresseThe operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant said on July 21 that it is using an underwater robot in a renewed attempt to inspect damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown.
A massive undersea earthquake on March 11, 2011 sent a huge wave barreling into Japan’s northeast coast, killing more than 18,500 people, and sending three reactors into meltdown at the plant in the worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) in February sent a remote-controlled robot into one of three damaged reactors where radiation levels have hit record highs.
But the mission was aborted at the No. 2 reactor after the robot could not reach its target destination beneath a pressure vessel through which nuclear fuel is believed to have melted as the robot had difficulty moving.
Locating the fuel debris is part of the decommissioning process for the plant expected to take decades.
On July 19, TEPCO sent a robot measuring 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) wide and 30 centimeters long to the No. 3 reactor and conducted another inspection on July 21, a spokesman said.
But the company has yet to find the fuel debris.
“Today the robot went deeper inside the containment vessel” of the reactor, he said, referring to the Friday probe, adding that TEPCO will analyze the images.
The Japanese government said in December that it expects total costs including compensation, decommissioning and decontamination to reach 21.5 trillion yen ($192.5 billion) in a process likely to take at least four decades as high radiation levels slow operations.