Monday, February 2, 2015

Fukushima Focuses on Robots

Four years later, the Japanese government is trying to get people to return to Fukushima in spite of the elevated levels of radiation that linger throughout the area. The cornerstone of this effort is a planned robot development zone with associated tax incentives. It is fitting in a way, since robots might help with the reconstruction effort over the next decade, and new advances in robots will be needed to ultimately disassemble the damaged nuclear reactors. The story today at The Asahi Shimbun:

The previously optimistic timetables for decommissioning the reactors have been set aside, and the operator is having difficulty meeting even the more pragmatic plans. It is two months behind in clearing contaminated water from onsite storage after a series of minor glitches, the kind that can be expected in any industrial operation. The contaminated water poses such a risk that the heavier work of taking the reactor facilities apart can’t begin for the time being. In such perilous work, it is safer to go slow and hope for the best than to rush ahead and suffer the inevitable errors that would result. The central government acknowledges now that work on the reactors will take at least until 2040. That is the kind of time scale that nuclear industry observers had been talking about all along.