We’ve been so used to sending robots to do jobs that are too dangerous for people that it’s almost second nature. It seems like common sense to use robots to help clear out and isolate the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan that was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.
However, there’s one problem. This job might be too dangerous for even robots. According to a Newsweek/Reuters report:
The fuel rods melted through their containment vessels in the reactors, and no one knows exactly where they are now. This part of the plant is so dangerous to humans, Tepco has been developing robots, which can swim under water and negotiate obstacles in damaged tunnels and piping to search for the melted fuel rods.
But as soon as they get close to the reactors, the radiation destroys their wiring and renders them useless, causing long delays, Masuda said.
Each robot has to be custom-built for each building. “It takes two years to develop a single-function robot,” Masuda said.
Setbacks like this mean the work at Fukushima is slow going. It will be years before the site is even remotely safe for humans, and even then there could be hidden dangers.