Toshiba unveils telescopic camera to explore Fukushima nuclear reactor
Toshiba's energy systems unit has unveiled a long telescopic pipe carrying a pan-tilt camera designed for an internal probe of one of the damaged reactor chambers at Japan's tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.
The device is 43ft long and is designed to give officials a deeper view into the nuclear plant's Unit 2 primary containment vessel, where details on melted fuel damage remain largely unknown.
The Fukushima plant had triple meltdowns following the 2011 quake and tsunami.
Finding melted fuel details is crucial to determining the right method and technology for its removal, the most challenging process during the plant's decades-long decommissioning.
A simpler predecessor to the new pipe captured a limited view of the vessel, and an even earlier crawling robot stalled inside the unit.
Toshiba officials said the new device will be sent inside the pedestal, a structure directly below the core, to investigate the area and hopefully to find melted debris.
The mission could come as soon as late January.
The device looks like a giant fishing rod about 4.7in in diameter, from which a unit housing the camera, a dosimeter and thermometer slowly slides down.
The probe, attached by a cable on the back, can descend all the way to the bottom of the reactor vessel if it can avoid obstacles, officials said.
Two teams of several engineers will be tasked with the mission, which they will remotely operate from a radiation-free command centre at the plant.
A simpler predecessor to the pipe unveiled on Friday had captured a limited view of the vessel during a preparatory investigation in February.
A crawling robot sent in later in February struggled with debris on the ground and stalled in the end due to higher-than-expected radiation, its intended mission incomplete.
The upgraded probe has been co-developed by Toshiba ESS and International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, a government-funded unit of construction and nuclear technology companies, over the past nine months.