Japan utility uses robot to make 1st contact with Fukushima fuel
FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN — Last week, a probe touched melted nuclear debris in the damaged second reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant for the first time in almost eight years since the disaster, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company.
The purpose of the mission was to determine how solid the melted fuel is and whether it could be transported away from the site, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
The robotic probe designed by Toshiba weighs about 1 kilogram and is fitted with 3-centimeter-long claws.
It can extend 15 meters and lift pieces up to 8 centimeters in diameter, that weigh up to 2 kilograms. The probe is also equipped with a dosimeter and a camera.
According to TEPCO, workers manually inserted the probe through a crack in the side of the No.
2 reactor's containment vessel.
Workers then remotely operated the probe from a building close to the No.
2 reactor building.
The probe lifted pebble-like nuclear fuel debris at five spots and failed to pick up debris in one area.
The probe also touched melted fuel on the workers scaffold below the reactor's pressure vessel.
The retrieval process will start in earnest at one of the reactors in 2021, according to a joint central government and TEPCO plan.
According to Bloomberg, full decommissioning of the Fukushima plant is expected to take 30 or 40 years.