In Brief
Toshiba has developed a robot to help survey highly radioactive waters at the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The robot will help find lost fuel rods and gauge the structural integrity of the facility to ensure safe removal.

The 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Da-Ichi nuclear power plant was a disaster of outrageous proportions. Triggered by a massive earthquake, the meltdown forced tens of thousand of people to evacuate their homes. The cleanup effort is ongoing and has been employing robots to help remove the radioactive fuel still trapped within the ruins of the facility.

Past robots used in the effort have consistently run into issues given the intense radiation on the site. Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has made progress in the removal of some of the spent fuel rods, but some melted fuel rods have managed to evade detection.

A new remote-controlled robot, however, is hoping to help locate those melted rods while also surveying the structural damage to the facility. Once the rods are located, the team will have to study the best way to safely remove them. The robot is about the size of a loaf of bread.

Radiation levels in the plant continue to make it impossible for humans to complete the cleanup. One robot, known as the “scorpion” probe, was exposed to radiation levels of 1,000 Sievert, which would kill a human in a matter of seconds. Robotics give humans control in these impossible conditions.