Can robots stop a meltdown?

Forbes Magazine, “Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe Escalates in Japan – ‘Worse than Chernobyl'”:

“The electrical grid is down. The emergency diesel generators have been damaged. The multi-reactor Fukushima atomic power plant is now relying on battery power, which will only last around eight hours. The danger is, the very thermally hot reactor cores at the plant must be continuously cooled for 24 to 48 hours. Without any electricity, the pumps won’t be able to pump water through the hot reactor cores to cool them. Once electricity is lost, the irradiated nuclear fuel could begin to melt down. If the containment systems fail, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur.”

Being a proponent of teleoperated robots, my response was to think of how teleoperated robots could help in environments such as fire and high radioactivity where humans cannot function.

So I stripped down my sketchup design for a teleoperated robot:

Robots like this could drive portable generator trailers to the reactor plant site. They could connect the generators to the reactor power system. They could get the cooling pumps running and operate them.

Japan must have a thousand university robotics students who could assemble a team of such robots in a matter of hours from the spare parts of class projects.

The Japanese are smart. So either they’re doing this, or something more effective, and we’re just not getting the full details in the US media.

It bothers me that the US response to this crisis is to send an aircraft carrier. We sent one to Haiti after their earthquake, and they still haven’t recovered. It’s an American compulsion these days to think of every problem in terms of military solutions.

However, I am confident that Japan’s leaders do think about engineering as a way to solve problems, and so Japan will survive this crisis.

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About engineerzero

Once and future engineer.
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