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Factory unveils 'muscle robots' to be used in Fukushima nuke plant dismantling

A "spider" robot is seen in Hiroshima, on Feb. 28, 2017. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- A factory here where so-called "muscle robots" to help decommission the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are being developed was unveiled to the Mainichi Shimbun on Feb. 28.

    The robot development project is a joint effort among Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd., Hiroshima-based equipment maker Chugai Technos Corp., and other firms. The companies are aiming to use the robots -- which are powered by water pressure and springs, and thus unlikely to be affected by radiation -- to crush and remove nuclear fuel that melted down six years ago. The companies have developed six types of robot so far.

    The machines unveiled on Feb. 28 include a six-limbed "spider" robot that can move around and transport objects. The robot is 2.8 meters long when the arms are fully extended, and the companies plan to give it the ability to hang from scaffolding and climb onto equipment.

    Although surveys of the interior of the Fukushima plant reactors have been conducted, details on the state and location of the melted nuclear fuel remain sketchy. The "muscle robots" are still in their preliminary stages of development, and the companies say they will continue to tweak the devices to respond to the actual conditions inside the reactors as they become known.

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