Robots sent into Fukushima nuclear plant

20 Apr 2011

Robots are being deployed at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in order to measure radiation levels and other conditions after the recent earthquake in Japan.

Packbots, made by US robotics company iRobot Corp, have been sent into the damaged nuclear power plant to measure radiation, oxygen and temperature levels within the reactor.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) sent them into the Nos 1 and 3 reactor buildings on Sunday and then the No 2 reactor on Monday, one month after the robots arrived in Japan.

The delay was caused by the excessive radiation, which the robots are not designed to handle. They were fitted with a HazMat sensing kit to detect gamma radiation, organic compounds and chemicals.

Reports said that while the Packbots faced some issues in the No 2 reactor when their camera fogged up due to humidity from the cooling water poured on the reactor’s fuel rods, they managed to gather data in the Nos 1 and 3 reactors, indicating that while radiation levels are elevated, they were not too high for employees to stay for a limited amount of time.

According to a TEPCO spokesperson, they will discuss how they will go about further deployment for the No 2 reactor.


Each Packbot weighs 10.9 kg. They are equipped with a three-link arm that can lift 13.6 kilograms in order to move debris and reposition harmful materials.

Moving on tracked wheels at a top speed of 9.3 km/h, the Packbot can climb stairs, navigate thin passageways and climb over rubble.

Officials can use them through an operational control unit using devices modelled after video-game controllers, along with a GUI.

They have been utilised to neutralise road-side bombs and to search buildings. A previous model of the Packbot was used in New York City after 9/11.


Separately, workers began removing radioactive water from one of the reactors at the nuclear complex yesterday to prevent further toxic ocean spills.

Some 10,000 tonnes of water will be moved to a storage facility over the next 20 days and workers will build a new processing facility at the same time to distill radioactive substances from this water. This construction of the processing facility will take a few months, longer than the 20 days it will take to move the water, meaning the liquid will remain in storage during this time.