TOKYO – The operator of the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima Daiichi introduced on Friday a telescopic arm with a camera into No. 2 reactor of the disaster-stricken plant, in an attempt to probe its condition for possible decommissioning.
The measure comes after a series of failed attempts to discern the exact situation of melted nuclear fuel inside the reactor, involving similar apparatus and robots that were unsuccessful due to technical problems caused by the extreme radioactivity levels.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) inserted a 13-meter long jointed pipe at the bottom of the reactor’s pressure vessel, and then deployed a camera at its end to film the bottom of the outer primary containment vessel, where nuclear fuel is believed to have accumulated.
The telescopic arm is equipped with a camera designed to withstand 1,000 sieverts of radiation and operate for up to 10 hours, TEPCO said in a statement.
Exposure to just 1 sievert of radiation in a day can severely damage human health and even cause death, so that the estimated levels of radiation inside the facility make access impossible for human workers.
Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered meltdowns of their cores after the earthquake and tsunami disaster that struck Japan in 2011. Knowing the exact condition of the radioactive fuel deposits is key for their management and removal.
In January 2017, TEPCO inserted another camera into No. 2 reactor, which sent images of possible melted fuel but could not provide more details about the deposit.
The company later sent two robots inside the reactor which also failed to further the probe due to technical problems.