Robot, drone fails on Japan nuke-plant missions

Two high-tech machines intended to help workers at Japan`s tsunami-hit nuclear plant malfunctioned today.

Tokyo: Two high-tech machines intended to
help workers at Japan`s tsunami-hit nuclear plant
malfunctioned today, including a long-awaited Japanese robot
making its first attempt to take important measurements in
areas too dangerous for humans.

The other machine that failed was a drone helicopter
that made an emergency landing on a reactor roof at the
Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co is trying to cool
down three molten reactor cores and stop radiation leaks to
end a crisis set off when the March 11 earthquake and tsunami
crippled the plant. The job is expected to take several more
months, and is complicated by massive amounts of radioactive
water that could soon leak into the sea.

The Quince robot, developed by Chiba Institute of
Technology for nuclear and biological disaster relief
activity, had ventured out into the Unit 2 reactor building to
set up a gauge to measure the contaminated water pooling in
the basement. Radioactivity inside the reactor buildings is
too high for workers to take measurements there.

The machine got stuck at a staircase landing and
failed to go downstairs, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto
said. A cable that was supposed to drop a gauge into the
basement also malfunctioned.

The workers retrieved the robot and were going to make
adjustments before sending it back in for another try,
Matsumoto said. He did not elaborate.

The other machine that malfunctioned Friday was a
T-Hawk drone helicopter, made in the US by Honeywell, that is
used to inspect hard-to-access areas of the plant.

The drone developed engine trouble during a radiation
sampling flight and made a remote-controlled emergency landing
on the roof of Unit 2, the only one of the four damaged
reactor buildings that still has a roof, Matsumoto said.

Matsumoto said photos taken by a camera installed on a water
pumping vehicle showed the drone was lying on its side, but
neither the aircraft nor the roof suffered major damage.

The cause of the engine failure was under
investigation. Matsumoto said it was not immediately known
when or how the drone may be retrieved, but a backup drone can
take over the mission.


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