Reuters - Video

EDITION: U.S. | U.K. | IN

Moments of Innovation

Fukushima disaster tests mettle of local robot makers

Friday, Dec 28, 2012 - 03:05

Dec. 28 - Despite being recognized as a world leader in robot design, Japan is playing catch-up to develop robots capable of dealing with the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Authorities have has to rely on American made machines to assess the damage inside the reactors. But now the country's big three manufacturers are building their own versions of durable, remote-controlled robots for hazardous environments. Ben Gruber reports.

▲ Hide Transcript

View Transcript

STORY: This is 'Rosemary' - a new robot designed to clean up the radioactive waste at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima. The robot can transmit live video, lift up to 60 kilograms, and make its way through areas littered with debris. Rosemary was designed specifically to replace humans working inside the plant, where radiation levels are still dangerously high. Rosemary is the first Japanese robot capable of working inside the power plant. Up until now, Japanese authorities have had to rely on American-made robots to survey and clean up the mess left after the March 2011 tsunami. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) CHIBA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY FUTURE ROBOTICS TECHNOLOGY CENTER VICE DIRECTOR, EIJI KOYANAGI SAYING: "Three thousand of America's Packbots were purchased by its military and the robot was used in the battlefield with soldiers training on it and because of that, it kept improving. But Japan's problem is that our robots don't actually get used." That's Eiji Koyanagi, the vice director of Chiba Institute, the research firm that developed Rosemary. He says that even though his country is a leader in robotic innovation, when it comes to the dirty work of cleaning up radioactive waste - Japan has had to outsource robots. For the past year, Japan's major industrial manufacturers, Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba have made a push to stop that trend and develop a new generation of robot workers. Mitsubishi has recently unveiled a 440 kilogram robot called MEISTeR. The robot is armed with attachable tools suited for different missions inside the reactor. It can bore a hole in a concrete wall to test radiation levels and use its manipulator arm to shut or open valves and doors, a crucial task in a leaking nuclear reactor. Mitsubishi's Jinichi Miyaguchi says the role of robots in Fukushima has changed from information gathering to actually replacing humans for manual tasks. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES NUCLEAR PLANT PRODUCTION DIVISION NUCLEAR ENERGY SYSTEMS GENERAL MANAGER, JINICHI MIYAGUCHI,SAYING: "Since we know the situation on the ground, we will need to start work. We will need a different type of robot compared to the ones we have now to do this sort of work. That means, among other things, being able to carry heavy loads and such and we think the Meister is suited to accomplish this goal." Hitachi has been developing a 2.5 ton robot crawler. It's equipped with excavator arms that can be fitted with claws, cutters and grips. But critics say these new robots are taking too long to develop. Former nuclear power plant manager Masashi Goto says the biggest issue is a lack of communication between the manufacturer's and Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the leaking plants. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) FORMER NUCLEAR POWER PLANT DESIGNER MASASHI GOTO SAYING: "The manufacturers are assuming what the situation on the ground will be be. Things will change once the robots hit the ground so there will be a lot of trial and error every time they come up with a problem so this is a test-bed. I have a strong feeling that the manufacturers are doing it for the sake of experimentation at this stage." Toshiba's four-legged robot designed to work inside the plant is proof that the technology faces hurdles. The robot locked up during a demonstration, a clear reminder that developing robots designed to replace manpower still has a long way to go.

Fukushima disaster tests mettle of local robot makers

Friday, Dec 28, 2012 - 03:05

Top News »

Money »

S&P 500 to new record on improving economy S&P 500 to new record on improving economy

Fri, Aug 29, 2014 - (2:31)

Finding meaning in the S&P 500 2000 mark Finding meaning in the S&P 500 2000 mark

Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - (2:35)

S&P falls back from record high S&P falls back from record high

Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - (1:35)

S&P 500 closes at new high S&P 500 closes at new high

Thu, Aug 21, 2014 - (1:24)

S&P 500 just shy of record S&P 500 just shy of record

Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - (2:23)

Apple hits $100 a share Apple hits $100 a share

Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - (2:06)

Nasdaq closes at 14-year high Nasdaq closes at 14-year high

Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - (2:23)

Putin puts Wall Street in buying mood Putin puts Wall Street in buying mood

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - (2:10)

We've become a promotional culture-RetailMeNot's Bodge We've become a promotional...

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - (4:39)

The Exchange »

The Exchange: Hot commodity The Exchange: Hot commodity

Wed, Jul 16, 2014 - (9:25)

The Exchange: Constitutional crusade The Exchange: Constitutional crusade

Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - (11:35)

The Exchange: The value of money The Exchange: The value of money

Mon, Jun 02, 2014 - (9:53)

The Exchange: China’s Second Continent The Exchange: China’s Second Continent

Tue, May 27, 2014 - (9:35)

The Exchange: A master of business arts The Exchange: A master of business arts

Thu, May 08, 2014 - (8:24)

The Exchange: America's bankrupt cities The Exchange: America's bankrupt cities

Mon, May 05, 2014 - (8:52)

The Exchange: Let the rocking commence The Exchange: Let the rocking commence

Tue, Apr 08, 2014 - (8:13)

The Exchange: The Moneyball fallacies The Exchange: The Moneyball fallacies

Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - (9:54)

Is doing good a good business? Is doing good a good business?

Mon, Mar 17, 2014 - (7:38)

Reuters Investigates »

Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead" Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead"

Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - (8:24)

Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest

Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - (4:01)

"Passed around like a dog" "Passed around like a dog"

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - (6:32)

Adopted, then abandoned online Adopted, then abandoned online

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - (13:21)

How the DEA keeps its secrets secret How the DEA keeps its secrets secret

Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - (1:36)

How education lost its role as the great equalizer - Reuters Investigates How education lost its role as the great...

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - (7:52)

Jihad Jane: From abused child to American jihadist - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: From abused child to American...

Sat, Dec 08, 2012 - (10:01)

Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters...

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - (10:39)

Moving Pictures »

Images of August Images of August

Fri, Aug 29, 2014 - (1:00)

Mending dolls, teddies and hearts Mending dolls, teddies and hearts

Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - (3:12)

"Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay "Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay

Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - (2:27)

Burned memories Burned memories

Fri, Aug 08, 2014 - (3:02)

Images of July Images of July

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 - (1:20)

World Cup: passion on the pitch World Cup: passion on the pitch

Fri, Jul 11, 2014 - (1:00)

A refugee in America gives back A refugee in America gives back

Wed, Jul 02, 2014 - (3:25)

A long search for refuge A long search for refuge

Fri, Jun 20, 2014 - (3:04)

World Cup: Around the globe in 50 goals World Cup: Around the globe in 50 goals

Fri, Jun 06, 2014 - (1:08)

VIVID – Sydney’s spectacle of light VIVID – Sydney’s spectacle of light

Fri, May 30, 2014 - (1:37)