Sunday, iRobot packbots entered the Fukushima Daiichi reactor building 3 to explore parts of the plant that have been closed to people since the facility was evacuated. Japanese nuclear workers were entering some locations in the plant just after the disaster, but now they've mostly pulled back to safe locations. The shorter term radiation doses were relatively safe, but at sustained elevated levels the threat of damage grows. The repair efforts continue with support from a number of robotic helpers.
The packbots had the important job of taking radiation and temperature readings from inside the rooms that had been sealed since the disaster. TEPco has not released these finding to the public just yet. Rest assured, you don't want to go in there. The bots also feature a video camera with a live-feed to operators at a safe location. The iRobot packbots are notable for their use in US Military operations in Iraq and Afganistan as bomb defusal bots.
There are a number of remote controlled robots in use for the repair operations in the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. TEPco started with remote controlled helicopter drones to get sustained closer looks at the damage throughout the reactor complex. They've also been using remotely controlled excavators and transporters. Much of the debris and rubble left from the disaster is too radioactive to safely deal with directly.
[via Technology Review]