Toshiba Introduces Robot Able To Withstand High Radiation
November 22, 2012

New Robot Capable Of Handling Radiation Environments

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Toshiba developed a robot it claims is able to withstand high radiation, making it capable of working in nuclear disaster sites such as those at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The new Japanese robot has four legs, and is capable of climbing over debris and venturing into radiated areas off-limits to humans. Toshiba said that the robot's wireless network is still able to be controlled in high radiation.

While the advancement in adapting to radiation is a new thing, a report by the Associated Press (AP) claims the robot took a misstep during a demonstration to reporters, and was also notably slow in climbing a flight of eight steps.

The robot features multiple joints on its legs that are controlled by a dedicated movement algorithm, enabling it to walk on uneven surfaces, avoid obstacles and climb stairs. Toshiba said the robot also has a folding arm that can release a companion smaller robot that mounts a second camera.

The cameras aboard the robot can be used to take images of narrow places and any equipment behind them, or tubes and other places that are too small for the robot to enter.

Toshiba reported that the robot could need as much as 10 minutes to figure out how to clear an object, such as debris at the Fukushima plant.

The company said it could use the robot to inspect the suppression chamber of the nuclear plant where a devastating meltdown took place when a massive tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The incident was the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Toshiba started to develop the robot to provide useful decommissioning of the plant. No human has ever been able to enter the highly radiated chamber since the tsunami disaster.

"The new robot integrates a camera and dosimeter and can investigate the condition of nuclear power plants by remote-controlled operation," Toshiba said in a press release. "It said the robot is capable of carrying out investigative and recovery work in locations that are too risky for people to enter."

The AP reports that although the demonstrated robotics were "top-notch," the machine might have limited abilities at the plant because of the disaster's magnitude and complexity.

Toshiba says the new robot can stay in a 100 millisievert environment for about a year, and can tolerate even higher radiated areas for shorter periods of time. Tokyo Electric Power Company said the suppression chamber was 360 millisieverts the last time it was measured. According to RTT News, scrapping the damaged reactors could take 30 to 40 years to complete.

Other robots' wirelessly remote-controlled networks are not capable of enduring high radiation. Even Honda said its Asimo robot would not have been able to handle the task, according to AP.

Since the March 11 incident, Japan has created a new energy policy that seeks to do away with nuclear power in the next 30 years.