Back in 2011, a Tsunami devastated parts of Japan, resulting in more than 18,000 deaths. The Tsunami also hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant, making it the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Parts of the damaged reactors are still contaminated with radiation and now robots have been employed to help clean it up.
Toshiba and a group of scientists have developed a waterproof robot, about the size of a loaf of bread, to explore the nuclear plant. Called Little Sunfish, the robot has been equipped with lights and tail propellers that help it swim, two cameras and a dosimeter to measure the levels of radiation.
It stays constantly connected to its makers via a data cable, which also beams back data about the conditions inside the reactor and photos too, helping scientists get an idea of what’s going on inside.
The pint-sized robot is currently being trialled by the consortium at a test facility in Tokyo. They will tweak Little Sunfish’s design until they are completely with stand the volatile conditions inside a reactor. Little Sunfish is scheduled to embark upon its journey into the nuclear plant next month.
However, it’s a journey not without risks – every other robot that has been sent into the nuclear reactor has not come back. Some, including a robotic snake and a scorpion-shaped machine, have simply failed, while others have been ‘killed’ by the levels of nuclear energy inside the reactor. The levels measure would kill a human in seconds, so it’s no wonder a robot has been detrimentally affected too.
Scientists are hopeful Little Sunfish will be able to help them remove a lot more of the radioactive waste from the damaged nuclear plant, by collecting important data and information.