Kurion, a company based in Colorado, United States, may play a big role in the effort in decommissioning the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in modern history. In the town of Loveland, a series of tests are now underway to see if Kurion’s robotic arm technology, one of the company’s inventions, can be used by utility operator Tokyo Electronic Power Co (TEPCO).
“As soon as the disaster happened, our group knew that we can help there,” said Marc Rood, business development director for Kurion. The company has spent the past year developing a robotic arm made of carbon fiber, designed to go where humans cannot – in this case, discover radioactive leaks in the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. Removing debris and finding the leaks is crucial to the decommissioning operation in Fukushima, and Kurion’s technology may be able to help. The second phase for Kurion will involve of their robotic arms, which will also repair leaks.
This week, observers from Japan came to Loveland to see the robotic system in action, before it is shipped to Fukushima later this month. “A lot of people, especially in the Fukushima area, are worried about the radiation and all of the Japanese people wish for this situation to be finished as soon as possible,” said Takashi Mitsui, one of the observers who flew in to see Kurion’s technology. “This is just step one of what will be a very long process,” Rood said, “but hopefully, at the end, something like this will help them get to that end point quicker.” In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit the area, killing more than 19,000 people and damaging the nuclear plant on the Fukushima coast. The facility has been spewing tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean ever since.
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