Robots to be deployed in Fukushima to remove melted fuel

In October 2023, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will deploy remote-controlled robots to retrieve debris from the main containment chamber of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This operation marks the first such effort since the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The removal of highly radioactive molten nuclear fuel from the three destroyed reactors at Fukushima is estimated to be around 880 tons.

The recovery effort following the disaster has proven to be challenging, with initial plans to start in 2021 facing multiple setbacks. TEPCO previously used drones to capture images in areas inaccessible to robots in reactor No. 1. The company will now use an expandable tube robot at the plant’s No. 2 reactor to test the removal of debris from the main containment chamber. During testing, TEPCO plans to collect debris weighing less than 3g using its pincer-mounted device.

Experts believe that tailored plans will be needed for each reactor based on their conditions, and getting a closer look at the melted fuel debris inside the reactors is crucial for decommissioning efforts. The Japanese government and TEPCO’s target of completing cleanup efforts in 30-40 years is seen as overly optimistic by some experts, who fear that it may take longer than anticipated due to the complex nature of decommissioning such dangerous facilities.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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