Robots for nuclear emergency 1980-2000(2)

An excerpt from “Robots as a public engineering” by Shigeo Hirose (Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology), Journal of Robotics Society of Japan, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp.138~140, 2003.

Robots are not such dream machines in science fictional cartoons as “one makes it, then it starts moving right away.” Moreover, developing a robotic system that can realistically operate in the extreme environments such as ones at the reactor related accidents is not that easy. It is one of “machines” that we should gradually grow its usefulness while making improvements step by step, and concurrently training operators who manipulate it. If the performance of the robot is not good enough, we should inherit the knowledge, continue the development, and be prepared, even if it is imperfect, to dispatch it when an accident occurs. Otherwise, it would not justify to apply a large budget form the tax.

In the other countries, institutions of anti nuclear disaster such as KHG in Germany and Groupe Intra in France, are equipped and train their personnel. Why is not Japan serious about establishing such a system? Even if it turns out to be on the shelf without ever being shown to the public, the funding agency should have allocated more time to develop more complete systems rather than having pushed the engineers to develop robots in a rush.

The reasons behind it may be one that the state budget for fiscal year must be digested as a single-year budget, or one that the electric power industry resisted and did not want to use the budget for such an institution; however if the country decides to use billions of yen of tax in the depression, was there not any more effective way? As long as technology continues to be developed in such a rigid science and technology administrative system, even with  excellent engineers in Japan working hard at the site, the Japanese robots will remain dream robots. In this regard, NPO International Rescue System Research, Kanagawa Prefecture, and NKK are jointly exploring a way to deal with this problem. Of course still extremely difficult problems remain, but we will continue working to have robots available for Japan’s future.


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