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16 August, 2018

International Forum on Decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi Highlights Remotely-Operated Systems

On August 5 and 6, an international forum was held in Fukushima Prefecture, as part of ongoing efforts in the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants.

Domestic and foreign experts and specialists gathered at the forum to share information on available technology, as well as to engage in dialogues with residents of the local community. Sponsored by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF), whose president is Hajimu Yamana, it was the third such forum.

On the first day, at the Naraha Community Center in Naraha Town, Associate Professor Hiroshi Kainuma of the Kinugasa Research Organization at Ritsumeikan University, who has been active in Fukushima reconstruction activities, served as facilitator in a session designed to allow local people to “know, talk and question.” The session was included in the program on account of the favorable experience of the dialogue session at the previous forum held at Hirono Town in July 2017. The next forum will be in Tomioka Town in August 2019.

On the second day, the location shifted to the Alios Iwaki Performing Arts Center in Iwaki City for a technical session, at which participants primarily discussed remotely-operated and robotic technology. Several examples from overseas were presented.

NDF President Yamana spoke at the technical session, expressing his positive expectations for the usability of remotely-operated technology in highly radioactive environments. He mentioned that more than six hundred people had participated in the dialogue with residents on the previous day. He also emphasized the significance of the forum, saying, “Information can be shared with local citizens, and forthcoming technical issues in the Fukushima-I decommissioning can be explored through discussions.”

Dr. Jeff Griffin, associate laboratory director at the Savannah River National Laboratory in the United States, explained cleanup challenges at the Hanford and Savannah River sites. He pointed to the huge volumes of waste stored in tanks as a common problem with Fukushima-I. He went on to talk about key factors in meeting the challenges, including (1) securing future workers, (2) communicating with local communities, and, most of all, (3) maintaining a “can-do” attitude.

Next to speak were Simon Candy, head of Technical, Remediation at Sellafield (U.K.), and Christine Georges, head of International Development, CEA Nuclear Directorate—Decommissioning Division, France, both of whom reported on the situations in their countries, including the strength of supply chains and the state of remotely-operated technology for decommissioning reprocessing facilities.

Presentations were also given by Dr. Robert Ambrose, division chief of the Software, Robotics and Simulation Division at NASA JSC, and Dr. Rob Buckingham, director and head of RACE (U.K.), and involved with fusion development. Dr. Ambrose talked about common points with Fukushima-I, such as sampling done using robots, and suggested the possibility of cooperation. Dr. Buckingham related the experience of training using mock-ups, which he said gave confidence to operators. He also warned of the dangers of over-confidence from too much use – namely, getting too used to it.

Dr. Hajime Asama, a University of Tokyo professor renowned in the robotics development field, gave the keynote speech at the technical session. As factors in the failure of robots at Fukushima-I, he pointed to the loss of control communications, operational mistakes, and malfunctions due to radiation, adding that it was important to learn from these errors.

In the subsequent panel discussion, the areas of remotely operated technology, the creation of common standards, and the sharing of failed experiences were identified as particularly having potential for international cooperation.

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