Fukushima nuclear accident happened in Japan in 2011, and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has since, not been able to clean the disaster site completely. The reason for such an extended period required for cleaning credits to the presence of extremely high levels of radiation inside the plant. Reports suggest that the radiation levels are now, at the highest intensity they had ever been since the accident nearly six years ago.
In March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was hit by an earthquake, and later by tsunami, resulting in failure of the plant’s cooling systems. Three of the six reactors at the plant melted, making the incident the worst nuclear disaster of all times. The cleanup of the destroyed nuclear facility is expected to take decades.
A remotely operated robot was sent to the site earlier this month on a cleanup mission. The robot was designed to withstand a total radiation exposure of 1000 Sieverts. It was equipped with a high-pressure water pump and a camera, but it lasted for only two hours before its cameras failed. The authorities had to pull it off the Reactor 2 of the nuclear complex, right after they lost visuals from the robot.
The radiation levels inside the reactor calculated by TEPCO earlier were 530 Sieverts per hour. Instead of using a Gieger counter for the radiation measurement, the company had used a robot’s camera reading, which left some critics skeptical of its accuracy. While a radiation level of 530 Sieverts is enough to kill a human instantly; the latest mission has left a proof that the radiation level is nearly up to 600 Sieverts.
According to TEPCO’s estimate, the robot endured a radiation of 650 Sieverts an hour before its cameras were damaged. The robot was dispatched with a mission to lay groundwork for future bots that would be sent for exploration purposes. It also had to create and clean a passage for a scorpion robot that was planned to be sent later for a better measurement of radiation and temperature. While the attempts to clean up the nuclear mess are rigorous, TEPCO says they are still assessing the conditions inside the reactor before they remove the fuel.
Just a month ago, a hole about a square meter in size was found below the pressure vessel of the Reactor 2. It is believed that the melted nuclear fuel caused the hole. The exploration robot may have failed in its mission, but it has succeeded in getting a better estimate of radiation levels and bringing the good news that there are no leaks that could create deadly radiation levels inside the reactor to pose a hazard outside.
We are looking forward to a faster cleaning of the site before Fukushima disaster spills cause damage to the outside world.
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