A robot capable of operating underwater and lifting heavy objects is expected to work in areas of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant that are still too dangerous for humans to enter.
The robot, Sakura No. 2, was developed and produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) and the Chiba Institute of Technology (CIT) under a cooperation agreement announced on Sept. 25.
Sakura No. 2 is 51 centimeters wide, 18 cm high and 104 cm long. It weighs about 48 kilograms, can carry equipment up to 50 kilograms, and its battery life is eight hours.
“(This is) the world’s one and only robot that can move freely in a nuclear reactor building and even work in water,” Takayuki Furuta, director of the CIT’s Future Robotics Technology Center, said.
Although no schedule has been announced, Furuta said Sakura No. 2 will likely be used in places of the wrecked nuclear reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant that are inaccessible to workers due to water leaks and high radiation levels.
CIT independently developed the robot. Under the agreement, MHI manufactures and markets Sakura No. 2.
The institute has provided unmanned robots, including Sakura, Rosemary and Quince No. 1 to 3, for reconstruction work since nuclear disaster started in March 2011.
The earlier models were capable of going up and down stairs, and their cameras helped plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. learn what was happening inside a five-story nuclear reactor building.
However, TEPCO also asked CIT if it could develop a robot that can be used in water and carry a heavy measuring device. The developer spent about a year to create Sakura No. 2.