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Nuclear plant workers to begin training in virtual reality reactor building in April

A virtual reality image of a reactor building at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant is seen at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Naraha Remote Technology Development Center in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)

NARAHA, Fukushima -- A virtual reality representation of the nuclear reactor buildings at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is set to begin operation in April, for use in devising decommissioning plans and for plant workers to practice what they'll be doing once they're inside the actual reactor buildings.

    Set up at the Naraha Remote Technology Development Center of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Naraha, the system includes a 3.6-meter-high screen onto which the interior of a reactor building is projected. Specially made glasses allow the user to see the scene -- recreated based on the original design plans and data collected by robots sent inside the buildings by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. -- in 3D. Users can experience walking up and down stairs and see dimly lit pipes throughout the building. Radiation levels and time spent "inside" are indicated at the top of the screen so that users can keep track of how much radiation they've been virtually "exposed" to.

    "If plant workers train in this virtual reality environment before they actually go into the reactor buildings, we anticipate that their work inside the plant will go a lot more smoothly," a representative for the center said.

    The decommissioning process for the nuclear plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years.

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