This is part of IEEE Spectrum’s ongoing coverage of Japan’s earthquake and nuclear emergency. For more details on how Fukushima Dai-1’s nuclear reactors work and what has gone wrong so far, see our explainer and our timeline.
A few days ago, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, sent iRobot PackBots into three reactor buildings at the complex. Now TEPCO has released multiple videos showing two PackBots navigating inside the dark, highly radioactive buildings.
It's quite a sight to watch the robots negotiating steps, rolling over debris, and pointing their cameras to sensors and other equipment inside the badly damaged buildings. In the first video below, you can see one of the robots using its manipulator arm to close a heavy door. The last video shows what appear to be sensor readings that reveal low oxygen levels and high radioactivity.
[Note: the videos have no audio.]
Robotic Drone Captures Dramatic Footage of Fukushima Destruction
Blog Post: Video and photos taken by a Honeywell T-Hawk micro air vehicle show damage with unprecedented detail
Robots Enter Fukushima Reactors, Detect High Radiation
Blog Post: Two iRobot PackBot ground robots have entered Unit 1 and Unit 3 of the Fukushima nuclear power plant and performed radioactivity measurements
Can Japan Send In Robots To Fix Troubled Nuclear Reactors?
Blog Post: It’s too dangerous for humans to enter the Fukushima Dai-1 nuclear plant. Why not send in robots?
Robot Surveys Damaged Gymnasium Too Dangerous for Rescue Workers
Blog Post: Researchers used a remote-controlled robot to enter a partially collapsed building and assess damages
Erico Guizzo is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. He has written stories on a wide range of science and technology topics, including Japanese androids, French computer codes, Icelandic video games, American crash-test dummies, and Canadian bacteria. His main area of interest is robotics, and he has written and edited hundreds of articles and videos featuring the latest advances in this field. He is also the cocreator of Spectrum’s critically acclaimed Robots for iPad app. For his robotics coverage, Guizzo has won four Neal Awards and has been a finalist for two National Magazine Awards. An IEEE member, he holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo, in his native Brazil, and a master’s in science writing from MIT.