Unmanned Aerial Technology: Fukushima Drone Survey a Game-Changer in Assessing Damage and Accelerating Cleanup at Nuclear Disaster Site
13 years ago, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history occurred when a record-breaking earthquake and following tsunami resulted in flooding – and subsequent nuclear meltdown – at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. In the days that followed, there were heroic stories of plant retirees volunteering to go in to the plant to help minimize the danger to others. Since then, the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) has been steadily engaged in efforts to safely decommission the plant.
Applications like the Fukishima drone survey represent the ultimate purpose of uncrewed systems: to perform the dark, dirty, and dangerous jobs and to keep human personnel out of harms way. TEPCO announced recently that they have completed testing of the first drones to be deployed to the Fukushima Daiichi plant as part of its decades-long decommissioning process.
The drones will be deployed alongside a snake-shaped robot in February of 2024, in order to survey the damage at the Unit 1 reactor. The deployment will be the first time that a drone will enter the reactor to provide an understanding of the damage above water, World Energy reports.
While the process of removing molten fuel from the site will take decades, drones may help by providing data from parts of the reactors that were previously inaccessible. Experts have attempted to use drones in the space previously, but extreme levels of radiation, debris and cluttered environments have made them impractical.
The new drones that TEPCO plans to deploy in February are “the size of a slice of bread,” the Associated Press reports. These drones were demonstrated at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s mockup facility in Naraha.