GE Hitachi robot developed to blast radioactive materials at Fukushima Daiichi

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Hitachi robot Fukushima Daiichi

While the Fukushima Daiichi disaster is having a profound impact on Japan’s economy, with over 1,100 companies filing bankruptcy for disaster-related reasons in the last two years, but some companies are working to meet new demands at Fukushima Daiichi for robots which can work in areas still too contaminated for workers to remain in for too long.  Toshiba’s latest design employed dry ice granules to decontaminate surfaces, but questions have been raised about its capacity and limited time for operation.

GE Hitachi’s latest robot was developed with funds from a government subsidy, and blasts radioactive materials from wall and floor surfaces with highly pressurized streams of water.  The jet arm is also equipped with a system for recovering some of the substances removed with suction.  Hitachi is hoping that TEPCO elects to use the robot this summer to decontaminate areas in the reactor buildings for workers to enter, but it can only decontaminate some 1 square meter of surface area per hour, for four hours a day.

Source: JiJi Press

Source: NHK

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2 Comments

  1. While I had seen this the day it was posted, another link that I saw today referring to a lost blog by one of the robotic technicians who actually worked at the site piqued a throught that I’ve had since the beginning of this disaster. Remembering this post, I thought that I’d speak up about my thoughts on robots and their problems.

    The link where the lost blog can be seen is:
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/fukushima-robot-operator-diaries

    It seems the 4 hour working time for these robots is shared, and is directly related to battery capacity. Also inherant in electronic robots is their problem with the survival of the electronics in high radiation environments. I would like to also say another problem with electronic robots is the servomotors. To have enough power to really do some lifting requires that the motors themselves become larger and/or larger, more, heavier batteries. Any of those mean more demand upon the batteries. It’s one of those loops that, without engineering above the off-the-shelf attitude, isn’t going to opened, and will remain closed to real solution to the actual situation unless there are very many of them (robots, along with technicians) and the radiation levels drop.

    Remembering this post and the hoses this robot drags along behind it reminded me again of the thoughts that I had concerning robots and the radiation problem. The only advantage (and it appears that actually the advantage isn’t that great) is that one can wirelessly operate the electronic robots. Personally, I’ve a mechanical backgroud rather than electronic and have dealt with much equipment that has air and or hydraulic logic. In the case of the robot which the article is about, they have resigned themselves to the fact that they will be dragging hoses behind them for the water and I assumed also the vacuum (rather than adding a vacuum motor and collector to the weight of the thing). Seems to me that if one can do that, resign oneself to the hoses, that air, hydraulic, or air over hydraulic would be much more efficient than servomotors and batteries. (By the way, vacuum is just air in reverse. I’ve put together vacuum systems out of plain hoses intersected by an air line.) Pure hydraulic can probably be eliminated out of hand, as a puncture in the line would make a hellholy mess, even if the lines are really hardened and durable. But air, or better, air over hydraulic really could be something that could be made with off the shelf parts.

    Cylinders, to have more power, just need to be designed larger, but cylinders are mostly space. It seems to me the mass to potential is much greater than for servomotors. And one also has the simple advantage of regulating pressure to gain or lose power. And because of their nature, doubling the diameter of the cylinder exponentially increases its power in relation to pressure. It’s common to have cylinders in which the working end of the shaft rotates. Hydraulic and air motors are something routinely used and there is motive drive. Positioning data for the cylinders is easy (they need those devices even with servomotors) and it’s also existing and common technology. And each, whether electronic or some alternative, after working in such environments, in the end they become radioactive waste.

    You’d still need the cameras, but no need for wifi (which is a problem in those environments) as a cable becomes part of the air line package one drags behind them. The 4 hour work limit is eliminated, the problem of working around debris is minimized because of the longer work time so one could clean up the mess to create a clear path without worrying about running out of batteries and getting stranded, and also, in the event of airline puncture, there are sealants there are available that can be added internally from afar and used to repair the line enough to retrieve the robot.

    Air logic has been around a long time. It”s a bit more cumbersome in controls, but one of the problems mentioned to be enountered with these electronic robots is the change of the center of gravity. (Didn’t Quince fall over?) With a bit heavier base (containing the larger air logic systems), that problem is minimized.

    Sorry, Lucas, if this seems like a waste of typing skills to post something like this here, but I know this site is visited (or watched) and maybe there’s an idea or two here that can be used to some advantage.

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