Robots to clean Fukushima nuclear plant

12.12.2012 - 13:02

Mitsubishi has designed a radiation-resistant robot which will clean up the Fukushima nuclear plant, harmed after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

With this project, the Japanese firm will join Hitachi and Toshiba, which have also introduced their own remote-controlled bots recently.

Despite robots are already at work inside the nuclear plant, none of them is specifically designed to work in a highly radioactive environment, according to experts, who defined this new step as “a challenge for robotics.”

Mitsubishi's robot is called Dubbed MEISTeR (Maintenance Equipment Integrated System of Telecontrol Robot), is about 1.3m tall and has two arms able to hold loads of up to 15kg.

However, Jeremy Pitt of the Intelligent Systems and Networks Group at Imperial College London said such tasks required a robot that could mimic human actions and decision-making.

"Fundamentally, instead of programming a robot to follow a precise series of actions, in open environments the requirement is to programme it to improvise”, he told the BBC.

"This requires a fusion of conscious reasoning mechanisms, like learning, with subconscious sensing mechanisms."

"If you are wishing to operate robots 24/7 inside a debris-filled power station in a radioactive area, it is much better to design the custom robot from the outset to meet specific tasks”, explained  Mark Clark,  spokesman of firm Qinetiq.

According to Clark, that the biggest problem with robots working in these kind of areas is their maintenance, because it would be difficult for humans to get near if repairs were needed.

Toshiba claims that its robot has a wireless network that can be controlled in high radiation, looking for a better signal when reception is weak. Therefore, this remote control could be a good solution to fix the bots inside those zones.