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1st experiment in Fukushima robot-testing zone to check drone performance

13 August 2015

The first experiment in the Hamadori robot-testing zone was conducted on Aug. 12 at the Shimoota industrial site in the Haramachi district of Minamisoma city, Fukushima Prefecture. The zone was set up by the central and prefectural governments covering roads, land and waterways in the Hamadori region on the Pacific coast. The experiment involved testing the performance of a small drone which had special equipment mounted on it.

The testing block was established as part of the central government's "Innovation Coast" initiative seeking to make Fukushima an industrial zone for international research on robotics. The experiment was conducted by MTS & Planning Co., a Fukushima city-based company engaged in the sale of drones, and enRoute Co., which manufactures and develops drones.

The drone was equipped with special gear such as a radiation measurement device and a long-distance video transmission system. The transmission system is expected to be useful in places such as the site of a natural disaster and Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant still enveloped in high amounts of radiation.

"It is important to transform the Innovation Coast initiative into reality," said Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, who witnessed the experiment. "I hope the robotics industry will play a part toward the revitalization of the Soso district" in the northern Hamadori region.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

21 August 2015

JAEA eyes Tomioka as venue for R&D facility for scrapping Fukushima plant

The town of Tomioka has emerged as a top candidate in the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s (JAEA) selection of a venue for the government-funded “Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science” in Fukushima Prefecture. The town aims to start welcoming back evacuated residents in April 2017 at the earliest and hopes its hosting of the facility will provide a jump-start for rebuilding the community. The Fukushima prefectural government will likely engage in more detailed discussions with the central government soon, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Tomioka, with its downtown area located about 9 kilometers from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant by linear distance, is well-positioned to enable researchers to travel easily between the crippled plant and the research facility, according to multiple sources. Furthermore, as Tomioka is the only one of the Futaba district’s six coastal municipalities not yet chosen to host any public reconstruction-related facility, it is believed that officials are hoping to achieve balanced development of the region.

In its second-phase reconstruction program compiled in June, the town placed emphasis on bidding to host major facilities as one of its targeted projects and has designated as the candidate venue for the projected research facility an area in the vicinity of the town hall, which is currently evacuated due to radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in 2011. It also sees the envisioned research facility as the core of developing new industrial technologies as well as revitalizing industries and creating new ones in the community.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

18 August 2015

TEPCO to use new robot with cutting-edge camera functions at Fukushima nuke plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. will introduce in fiscal 2016 a new remote-controlled robot, equipped with stereoscopic and bird’s-eye imagery camera functions, to survey the inside conditions of containment vessels at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in an effort to expedite decommissioning work there. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning has developed the robot in cooperation with three national universities -- Tokyo, Tsukuba and Kobe -- and plan to field-test it in the near future.

Improving the existing robots’ camera functions and maneuverability is essential to facilitate and speed up surveying inside the containment vessels and decontamination inside the reactor buildings. Researchers from the University of Tokyo are in charge of developing the bird’s-eye view imagery function, while Tsukuba University focuses on stereoscopic technology. Meanwhile, Kobe University is working to create an articulated robotic arm for decontamination and other uses.

The respective technologies being developed can be applied to a wide range of different robots and for various other purposes. Officials are hoping the new robot will contribute to progress in the containment vessel surveys and decontamination inside the reactor buildings where debris and other obstacles remain scattered since the meltdown triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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