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Japan Unveils Robot That Can Inspect Damaged Nuke Reactors

11/22/2012 2:20 AM ET

Japan on Wednesday unveiled a four-legged robot that can inspect the inside of damaged nuclear reactors marked for scrapping.

Developed by electronics major Toshiba, the radio-controlled one-meter-tall robot has six video cameras and a radiation detector. It can overcome obstacles up to 40 centimeters high and climb up and down stairs using its 70-centimeter-long legs, Japan's NHK broadcaster reported.

The robot carries a small vehicle on its top with a camera attached. The robot uses its arm to unload the vehicle so it can inspect tiny spaces like the undersides of pipes.

Toshiba, which developed the robot to go into the insides of the tsunami-crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where human could not venture because of high radiation, claims that it can work for 300 days in a high-radiation environment.

The company said the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima plant, could use the machine in research related to scrapping the damaged reactors, a stupendous task that may take 30 to 40 years to complete.

The Fukushima plant was knocked out in the March 11, 2011 quake-triggered tsunami, sending out radioactive materials into the atmosphere and the ocean, contaminated food and the water supply, and forced the evacuation of 160,000 residents in a 30-kilometer radius of the plant in Japan's northeast. The accident, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, forced the Japanese government to evolve a new energy policy that seeks to do do away with nuclear power in the next 30 years.

Toshiba executive Goro Yanase said his company planned to develop robots that could carry heavy loads or carry out more complex tasks.

by RTT Staff Writer

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