Japanese companies including Toshiba Corp, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi have been developing robots that can monitor radiation, decontaminate, remove contaminated debris or repair damage, and some of them have been mobilized at the plant.
Standard decommissioning has been largely carried out by human workers.
IRID managing director Kazuhiro Suzuki said the robotics technologies being developed to probe and remove Fukushima’s melted fuel could benefit ordinary decommissioning, not just severely damaged reactors.
Use of robotics and other advanced technologies not only helps to reduce worker radiation exposure, but could also make a cleanup faster and cheaper, said Barrett, who now advises TEPCO and IRID.
TEPCO is decommissioning four reactor units crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and will later scrap the remaining two that survived.
Three suffered meltdowns and one was damaged by hydrogen explosions.
The decommissioning of the four would take about 40 years.