Ocean sunfish robot at Fukushima plant

Ocean sunfish robot at Fukushima plant

Tokyo Electric Power Company has debuted a new underwater robot to help in the removal of melted fuel at a crippled nuclear reactor in Fukushima.

On Thursday, a test of the robot was disclosed to the public in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo.

The robot travels by rotating a screw operated by remote control. As it moves slowly at 4 centimeters per second, it resembles an ocean sunfish.

The robot is 30 centimeters long and 13 centimeters wide. Cameras are attached at the front and back of its body. The robot is also equipped with a dosimeter.

TEPCO plans to film the inside of the containment vessel, which holds water that's more than 6 meters deep.

Use of the robot at Fukushima may come as early as next month.

In the 2011 accident, nuclear fuel in the No.3 reactor is believed to have melted and fallen to the bottom of the containment vessel that covers the reactor. The nuclear fuel is thought to lie within the water injected for cooling.

Removal of nuclear fuel is considered the most difficult part of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. TEPCO plans to decide how to go about it around the summer of this year. No full-scale examination has been done so far at the No.3 reactor.