Conceptual drawing of the Naraha Remote Technology Development Center

A facility that is being built by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) in Fukushima Prefecture to develop and test remote-controlled equipment for the cleanup of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is due to be completed by April 2015, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF).

The Naraha Remote Technology Development Center in Fukushima Prefecture is expected to serve as the central R&D facility for establishing a technological infrastructure to accelerate decommissioning of Fukushima, while contributing economically to the reconstruction of the area.

The centre will comprise two buildings: a research management building and a two-storey experimental building. The first building will include accommodation for the researchers and engineers working at the site, as well as conference rooms that can be used as a virtual reality training space to develop and evaluate operating procedures for using remote-controlled equipment. It will also include a reference library and presentation space.

The experimental building will contain a one-eighth size mock-up of the lower part of a reactor containment vessel (PCV), reproducing the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi site as closely as possible.

Robots are expected to be used to demonstrate the technology for repairing leaks in the lower parts of the PCVs. In demonstration tests, leaks will be simulated using water, and tests will be performed to stop the leaks, by pouring in cement, JAIF said.

"Stopping the leakage is the most important issue before removing fuel debris," commented Hiroshi Kawamura director of JAEA’s Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Safety Research Establishment. Work on assembling a mock-up for Unit 2 will begin in October 2015 or so, with tests to begin around February 2016.

The experimental building will also include an indoor demonstration test area for disaster-response robots, which will also be used to train operators, workers, and others, JAIF said. This area will include a water tank, barriers, slopes, stairs and rubble to evaluate the performance of the robots. Robots are expected to be use extensively for investigations and decontamination inside the Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings.

Photo: Conceptual drawing of the Naraha Remote Technology Development Center (Credit JAIF/JAEA)