Fukushima’s No Man’s Land – A Place Where Even Robots Find It Hard to Tread

All this time we’ve been talking about technology taking us to new heights making life as comfortable as it was never before with robots and machines that can do things that we could hardly imagine and in one part of the world, we have technology fail us time and again as we try to clean out a disaster struck nuclear plant.

Japan’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant suffered multiple meltdowns when five years ago one of the worst earthquakes in history led to a tsunami which was almost 10 meter high. As the tsunami crashed into the power plant which was operated by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), 19,000 people lost their lives and 160,000 were left without a home and livelihood.

In a span of five years, TEPCO has made limited progress and it still needs to develop technology that will help in establishing the location of the melted fuel rods in three reactors of the plant. Every robot is custom built for the buildings and it takes two years to develop a single-function robot. To see two years’ worth of relentless efforts melt into nothing is absolutely disheartening.

Over 8,000 workers are at the plant at one time with constant traffic throughout the site as debris is being cleared, storage tanks being built and parts of the plant is being prepared to dismantle.

A lot of work at the site involves pumping in water to cool down the extremely radiated reactor. The water is later pumped out and stored in tanks which are spread across the site. One of the most worrying concerns of TEPCO is the million tonnes of radioactive water which is in the storage tanks. Some of the water has already leaked into the ocean when TEPCO has completed only 10% of the work. It is being contemplated that it could take almost 30 to 40 years for the decommissioning process to complete.

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