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"Scorpion" robot fails in Fukushima debris search

"Scorpion" robot fails in Fukushima debris searchA robot sent into Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to take a close look inside the severely damaged reactor after a March 2011 tsunami saw its mission come to a sudden halt after debris – or radiation – blocked its progression, the plant's operator said on Friday.

The plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)said the remote-controlled "scorpion" robot was sent into the Unit 2 reactor's containment vessel on Thursday to investigate the area around the core that had melted six years ago, but its crawling function failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris.

The robot was supposed to crawl through the heart of a site in the reactor beneath a pressure vessel through which nuclear fuel is thought to have melted and pooled. But it never made it to its final destination.

It’s not clear when or if a new robot will be dispatched to the area. Currently, researchers are sifting through the information the “scorpion” was able to collect, to see if there is anything’s useful.

However, TEPCO said at a press conference, "We have received great hints for the next step."

The robot, carrying a dosimeter, thermometer and two small cameras, transmitted some data and visuals but could not locate melted fuel — key information to determine how to remove debris out of the reactor. The robot was abandoned inside the vessel at a location where it won't block a future probe.

TEPCO said it is uncertain whether high radiation caused a track glitch of the robot. Officials said that despite the dangerously high figures, radiation is not leaking outside of the reactor.
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