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130 comments

in Sci-Fi movies? (1)

vleo (7933) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629060)

I got serious doubts about Japan in reality vs. Japan in virtuality after these nuclear disaster events.

Re:in Sci-Fi movies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630498)

You are right to doubt them.

No incentive (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629070)

With nuclear accidents being extremely rare there is no point in designing robots specifically for them. Those models would most likely become obsolete without ever being used.

Re:No incentive (5, Insightful)

Capitaine (2026730) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629112)

Nuclear disasters are not the only use case of such robots. Fire-fighting, post-earthquake/terror attack assistance etc. apart from the shielding, not much changes. An Asimo or any other humanoïd robot doesn't help much in those cases. They are good for shows or interaction with human but not for operation in hard terrains.

Standard robots are not very good with radiation. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629224)

Nuclear disasters are not the only use case of such robots. Fire-fighting, post-earthquake/terror attack assistance etc. apart from the shielding, not much changes.

But the shielding is important. All your electronics and your sensors will go harvoc there. To get anything working you most likely need totally different designs.

Camaras (both analog and digital) are likely to also 'see' the radiation and thus no longer see anything, and while you can shield the inner core electronics, roboters without sensors or actors do not make much sense.

If you have to deal with high radiation, you either need very special robots. Or you need humans. They will not come back, and they might not last very long, but compared to electronics, they are suprisingly tough on a short enough time scale.

Re:Standard robots are not very good with radiatio (2)

Pi1grim (1956208) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629428)

Likely to "see the radiation"? How about reading up on the spectrum emitted. As for analog cameras — are saying there are robots that use film cameras as visual sensors? If radiation is jamming the electronics then the human sent in that environment will fry on the spot in the matter of minutes. Simple as that.

Re:Standard robots are not very good with radiatio (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629520)

Hey, idiot, "analog" doesn't mean "film", jackass. Analog as in EVERY FUCKING CAMERA SENSOR EVER. Tubes, CMOS, CCD, all are analog, and all are sensitive to radiation. Point a remote control at a camera, ta-dah! IR shows up! Human will "fry" ??? What a precise, quantifiable statement! Actually, humans can keep working in radioactive environments where no unshielded electronics will work. The human won't "fry" you ignorant, hyperbolic idiot, he'll just die of leukemia later on, not within minutes.

Re:Standard robots are not very good with radiatio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629548)

Likely to "see the radiation"? How about reading up on the spectrum emitted.

No matter if you have some light sensing diodes, transistors or what not, add some heavy ionisation
and your system will trigger all the time, as if it "saw" something...

If radiation is jamming the electronics then the human sent in that environment will fry on the spot in the matter of minutes. Simple as that.

Biological systems degrade slowly under radiation. With radioation already strong enough to disable everything mechanical not specifically designed for this radioation, humans might only get sick, get better, still live half a year and die then. With even stronger radiation, humans will not live long, but still be able to work half an hour where the robots just got an instant-off.

Robots where already of not much use in Tschernobyl. And modern electronics (unless specially designed) is only getting more and more delicate in that regard.

Re:Standard robots are not very good with radiatio (2)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629678)

No matter if you have some light sensing diodes, transistors or what not, add some heavy ionisation and your system will trigger all the time, as if it "saw" something...

It also doesn't matter that you use photoelectrical chemicals, like our eyes.

You are overestimating the problem radiation causes to a sensor. You can deal with it with some good averaging, like is applied on our eyes, or you can use more complex techiniques that will give even better results.

Now, the problem of radiation destroing the sensor is a big one. For solving that you'd even need specialized semiconductor fabrics. With some redundancy and shielding you can make they last longer, maybe that is good enough.

Re:Standard robots are not very good with radiatio (4, Interesting)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629432)

Under high radiation, even oils like lubricants and hydraulic liquids can go bad very quickly. You can imagine your car running with gunk instead of oil.

Re:No incentive (4, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629854)

Actually, it says in the article that sufficient shielding more than doubled the weight of one Japanese robot used at Fukushima. Also, the normal wireless remote control was useless inside of the reactor buildings and had to be replaced with a cable that eventually snapped. Robots that have to properly accommodate these two requirements do require some specialized engineering, it would appear.

Re:No incentive (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629910)

The human interaction stuff is actually quite important for rescue operations where people are involved. You want a robot that is fast, able to move over difficult terrain and very strong so it can move heavy objects, yet gentle enough to handle human beings and understand how to avoid accidentally hurting them.

Re:No incentive (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629120)

Well, there's something to be said about money well spent even despite never being necessary. By that logic, I should probably dismantle the fire alarms in my house since the chance that their detectors go bad before the first fire happening is pretty high.

Re:No incentive (1)

Feyshtey (1523799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629248)

You should defund the military while you're at it.

Re:No incentive (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629304)

I wasn't under the impression that the military isn't used.

Re:No incentive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631452)

For reference, we flew several Global Hawk [wikipedia.org] doing disaster relief missions over the reactor [bloomberg.com]. We also flew over Haiti [kcra.com] and California wildfires [latimes.com]. However, it doesn't shoot missiles, so OSD will gut the program and let it die an expensive death over the next 2 years.

Brief reality check (0)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629126)

When did Noah build the ark?

Before the rain.

Re:Brief reality check (0)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629208)

He didn't. There was no Noah.

This story illustrate nothing other else than the appalling morals prevalent in the bronze age.

ya cause it based on babylon tales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629244)

go read up tales of gilgamesh and tell me after reading that the jews just didn't copy it over ....and to think with them and Americans we now have copyrights all over the world....

Re:Brief reality check (4, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629356)

Noah was probably a dude on a raft with a couple of goats, and some writer seriously blew that shit out of proportion.

Guess what you missed. (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631204)

Here's a hint: it's an analogy.

The point is this. You implement precautions. You then follow up with contingency plans.

Although this was a technical mishap, it doesn't eliminate the necessity for the robots should something terrible occur.

Re:Guess what you missed. (1)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631726)

I understand that. Just that using the analogy of a goat herder hearing voices in his head is not a great analogy for good engineering practise. In fact bible analogies are usually never great about anything.

I am sure you could have come up with a thousand better analogies/moral tales made up on the spot.

Re:No incentive (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629340)

With nuclear accidents being extremely rare there is no point in designing robots specifically for them. Those models would most likely become obsolete without ever being used.

An "obsolete" robot is better than no robot.

Re:No incentive (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629688)

With nuclear accidents being extremely rare there is no point in designing robots specifically for them. Those models would most likely become obsolete without ever being used.

So you've factored in 'possibility'. What about 'impact'. So are you saying that nuclear accidents are so rare that it is OK to kill off or severely impact or shorten the lives of dozens or more people whenever it does happen? That's a pretty stupid notion if you ask me.

And what is it about ionizing radiation that changes so much that will make a robot capable of general mechanical work in a radioactive environment obsolete? The only major thing(s) that will change is likely to be the controllers/software. And why couldn't a hardened robot be useful in other scenarios like rescue? I can't see why building a robot with two or more arms capable of using tools, carrying buckets up stairs, or people in rescue work, or doing general building maintenance, etc. is not a useful endeavor. The function is not likely to change, it is how well it does it and how well it can function autonomously (not necessarily the same thing). Especially if you can make the functional arms or arm ends modular to replace tools as they improve, and not the whole robot.

I think the focus on cute 'take care of me' robot puppies and human mimicking 'care robots' is important precisely because of the coolness factor. People are willing to fund stuff that looks cool and can help people, or is simply cool. That helps drive research and improvements. But they need to start making autonomous Awesom-o's do more than be cute, or put on human expressions. They need to start focusing more on function than on form.

Re:No incentive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630980)

You are aware that Japan's population is getting old, very old, and old people need help. It's not just the cool factor, there's an actual need for those robots.

Re:No incentive (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631422)

So you've factored in 'possibility'. What about 'impact'. So are you saying that nuclear accidents are so rare that it is OK to kill off or severely impact or shorten the lives of dozens or more people whenever it does happen? That's a pretty stupid notion if you ask me.

Every industry has a risk. It's sad when accidents happen, but we can't defend against everything. If they become widespread, those hospital robots could help far more people than nuclear accidents would claim.

Re:No incentive (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38632144)

Risks sure, but you still haven't recognized that risks have at least two factors to take into consideration: probability and impact. Low probability low impact I can see handling it on a case by case basis. Low probability and high impact in terms of human beings being killed cleaning up the mess? I'd say you prepare for it pretty damned fully up front. There is no reason for people to die or get cancer because some board member of a company determined that it didn't happen enough. And nuclear accidents are recognized risks that the nuclear industry takes into account. Otherwise they wouldn't spend a millions to build containment domes over the reactors. I would bet that those huge reinforced buildings cost tens of millions of dollars to build and are built precisely in case of what you mistakenly call low risks. If they were low risk (i.e. low probability low impact) they wouldn't spend millions to build them. And we can see what happened when someone used your definition of risk: Chernobyl. It didn't have a containment dome. That is why the radiation was so wide spread. And what about the tens of millions spent on emergency backup generators and pumps and all the other systems... in one plant. It costs billions of dollars to build a nuclear generating facility. A lot of that is on safety systems because the believe a low probability event has a high enough impact that they will spend probably 9 figures to mitigate or prevent any possible accident. In the construction of one facility they dwarf the funding that could provide the kinds of robots we are talking about by orders of magnitude. No you can't protect against everything, but you do protect and plan for things with high impact. And besides, robots like these could be used for hazardous jobs in day to day operations as well. It is win win.

Re:No incentive (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630668)

When evaluating the cost of preparing for unlikely but extremely costly or dangerous events, people routinely get it wrong. Either they drastically overestimate or underestimate the likelihood of the event occurring.

Let's say the estimated cost of a meltdown was pegged at $1 billion and 100 lives. And lets say you can add a feature or siting to the reactor design that cuts the risk of meltdown from 1% to 1/2% over its lifetime. That feature is worth spending $5 million and 5 lives.

Re:No incentive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630670)

While others might consider your comment insightful, i have a totally different opinion:
Following your logic, fire alarms are not neccesary in houses that have never burnt.
The likeliness of an accident is only one factor on why certain preperations should be done. The degree of damage and harm of an accident, if it happens ever, would be another factor to consider.
I d say there s quite some incentive for those robots.

Say.. did you work for the NASA staff somewhen in the past?

Re:No incentive (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631650)

Agree entirely. Knee-jerk pro-nuke polyannas are just as witless and unhelpful as anti-nuke chicken littles.

I doubt if the guy ever worked for NASA. Risk assessment for Airbus maybe.

Re:No incentive (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631230)

Radiation-hardened robots would be useful in routine plant maintenance, for areas where humans can only stay for minutes at a time.

There's plenty of safety-related hardware at a nuclear plant that may never get used: a lot of it is more expensive than a few robots.

Re:No incentive (2)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631700)

Disasters are rare-ish, but accidents are not. Robots for removing highly radioactive leaked water and other materials would be helpful.

Re:No incentive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38632056)

Half the equipment in a nuclear plant is specifically designed for accidents and never used.

Lots of Accidents (1)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38632168)

Maybe a tsunami is rare, but they still have Mothra and Godzilla over there, so it's probably worth it

It is simple (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629076)

Pride prevented them from acknowledging their weaknesses and thus prevented them from building robots that could go into the bad places that humans have made.

it is pretty typical japanese ignore a potential situation until you are shamed into no longer ignoring it. It is one of the few things that japan does that they are ashamed of but because they are shamed they won't fix it.

American's are alway cleaning up the mess made by others. hopefully one day someone will clean up after us American's

Re:It is simple (3, Funny)

swamp_ig (466489) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629174)

American's are alway cleaning up the mess made by others. hopefully one day someone will clean up after us American's

Like inappropriate apostrophes?

Re:It is simple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629292)

When will you clean up those useless apostrophes? Why didn't you write thing's or human's?

It is simple (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629570)

To me, the parent post seems an elaborate rationalization for why the argument, nuke==bad didn't win in Japan. The Japanese must be secretly ashamed of not agreeing with a Slashdot poster.

Re:It is simple (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629808)

What the hell are you talking about? I don't see any rationalization but more a statement of pretty much universally understood Japanese behaviour. And I will say it is pretty much universally understood that America does help a lot (more than any other country) with money and manpower when natural and some man made disasters hit other countries. But I am not sure if that help comes anywhere close to the manpower and money they spend screwing other countries up with their interventional (overt and covert) foreign policies. Or whether it even comes close to making up for it either.

Re:It is simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631070)

All countries using nuclear power (publicly) ignore or very much downplay the risks. Otherwise, they would hardly be able to make their tax payers fund the reactors and the waste disposal, or accept the continuous operation at all.

Yes, nuclear energy is very heavily subsidized by the state.

Now, asking taxpayers to fund both "safe" reactors and development of technology with the express purpose of cleaning up after a reactor meltdown would be very hard to argue indeed. The US has another use for those robots, namely the military. Japan not so much.

Re:It is simple (2)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631670)

American's are alway cleaning up the mess made by others. hopefully one day someone will clean up after us American's

Hopefully America could one day clean up just one hellish mess that we generate ourselves.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629088)

That is because the Japanese foremost designed their robots to take care of old people.

Have them walk into a exploded nuclear reactor and save the world was not on their todo list, yet.

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629122)

Most Slashdotters are hopelessly naive and deluded about reality. Especially in space threads, but also anything involving robots.

Unclear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629124)

For a dyslexic, nuclear is unclear.

I tend to consider this as very stupid, as the dangers clearly outweigh any benefit, but I'll post this idea for the sake of protecting the heroes that have to give their lives because the idiot weasels first lied to get power and then betrayed their voters by choosing the alternative that is unsafe.

Much has been done with self-sufficient robots (like promotng soccer championships). I guess we should go the way of "mechas" first. It would be a lot easier to build a remote controlled mecha than to do a full anime friednly robot able to sacrifice himself for us.

Heck, some people would actually find it very funny to pilot such mechas. And they could deployed instantly to deal with tragedies like exploding reactors.

This wouldn't be very good as a war weapon, so I find the idea even better.

Just my 2.

OT, but this registered users getting +1 sucks. And no, registering would not solve the problem. If you don't like it, why not go elsewhere... isn't it the automatic reply?

Re:Unclear. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629180)

For a dyslexic, nigger is sub-human shit. Wait, that is for everybody.

Re:Unclear. (2)

Linsaran (728833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629414)

For a dyslexic, nuclear is unclear.

I tend to consider this as very stupid, as the dangers clearly outweigh any benefit, but I'll post this idea for the sake of protecting the heroes that have to give their lives because the idiot weasels first lied to get power and then betrayed their voters by choosing the alternative that is unsafe.

The dangers associated with nuclear power are very much analogous to flying in an airplane vs. driving a car for a long trip. Statistically speaking you're more likely to have a car acident than a plane crash. Likewise more people die every year from car acidents than plane crashes.

That said a car crash has a lot lower fatality rate than plane crashes, plenty of people walk away relatively unscathed from a car crash, and even if they don't a car crash has the potential to kill maybe a dozen people if it's really bad. On the other hand a plane crash is almost certainly fatal (assuming the plane got off of the runway), and given that most passanger carry a hundred people or more, a plane crash is a much more serious event for those involved.

There are plenty of unpublished deaths associated with coal or oil power (the primary alternatives to nuclear), mining accidents etc. (not to mention the untabulated costs of pollution and environmental damage) Compared to what, 3 major nuclear events over the past 60 years, each of which had it's costs in life and environmental damages.

The Point is that while each has it's costs in human life and damage to the environment, nuclear power generally has more devastating accidents that happen rarely, while coal and oil have much less devastating accidents that I'd wager happen much more frequently than most people are aware of (I'd even bet the total cost in human lives to be proportionally higher for coal and oil, adjusted for percentage of total power provided of course)

Re:Unclear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630488)

> The dangers associated with nuclear power are very much analogous to flying in an airplane vs. driving a car for a long trip

I don't think so. An airplane falling can actually improve avionics in the afterward years; radioactive contamination is hard to remove.

Your points about coal only make it certain using coal or nuclear energy are both bad options. Personally, I find geothermal energy better, if available.

Re:Unclear. (1)

Linsaran (728833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631804)

> The dangers associated with nuclear power are very much analogous to flying in an airplane vs. driving a car for a long trip

I don't think so. An airplane falling can actually improve avionics in the afterward years; radioactive contamination is hard to remove.

Your points about coal only make it certain using coal or nuclear energy are both bad options. Personally, I find geothermal energy better, if available.

Radioactive contamination is hard to remove, but again it affects a relatively small percentage of the earth. It affects that small percentage dramatically, but still a small percentage (and I would still argue a smaller percentage than oil and coal pollution does). Also accidents like that do actually help us to make better nuclear plants, for one, by analyzing how it failed we know where improvements should be made in the future.

And you yourself highlight the major problem with geothermal energy: availability. Actually that's the problem with most alternative energy sources, they've generally got insufficient availability to feed the needs of an industrialized nation.

Nuclear energy isn't perfect, there's certainly risks involved, but I think that all things considered they're acceptable risks, especially with some of the newer meltdown proof thorium molten salt designs [wikipedia.org]. It's just that getting it out of the planning board and into use that is hard, too many people get terrified of any technology that has the word 'nuclear' in it.

Re:Unclear. (1)

Pi1grim (1956208) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629496)

Remote control technologies are far from being usable in case of a disaster. Look at EOD robots. That's military grade stuff, and yet they still get quite a number of malfulctions, while their robots don't have to stray far, crawl through buildings or withstand radioactivity, agressive chemicals. Automated bots would not have enough intelligence to handle the situation. So we are not quite there yet with our technologies. And I am not talking about sentient robots capable of self-sacrifice (someone is hooked on sci-fi novels and anime, huh?), but a simple automated machine that can aid the firemen, policemen or the rescue services in their dangereous as hell jobs.

Re:Unclear. (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630042)

For a dyslexic, nuclear is unclear.

"A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire

Though to call that contrived and pointless opening "witty" would be overstating it. Either your case stands on the facts, or it doesn't; third-rate wordplay merely cheapens any point you're trying to make.

Companion Bots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629136)

Robotic research has been more focused on the more profitable Companion Bot market, or so it appears...

Easy (4, Funny)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629206)

Some of them were playing violin, while rest enjoyed walking up and down the stairs.

Re:Easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630572)

Some of them were playing violin

Nerobot

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631046)

Others, disguised as innocent, young school girls of various European nationalities, were carrying out anti-terrorism and assassination duties in Italy.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631678)

Jumpstart 3rd grade?

Mythbusters to the rescue! (4, Interesting)

Gnavpot (708731) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629278)

The comments here on /. are focused on why robots were not built in advance. But I am wondering why nothing was done in the days after the disaster.

When I heard about the attempts of cooling from the outside using fire trucks, which failed because the radiation was too high for the personnel, my first thought was:
Mythbusters can make a vehicle remote operated for a weekly TV show. The entire nation of Japan can't make a fire truck remote operated after facing a nuclear disaster?

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629926)

Bureaucracy

Yep

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630348)

When I heard about the attempts of cooling from the outside using fire trucks, which failed because the radiation was too high for the personnel

That is a 100% false statement. The correct statement to make is that firetrucks were used after the damage has already been done, when internal geometry of the reactor was already damaged by heat. Secondly, since these trucks were at ground level and could not possibly provide enough flow and pressure to cool overheated and overpressured reactors. You needed 100s of liters per second, something that is not easy to achieve with conventional pumps.

Failure of using firetrucks has absolutely *nothing* to do with you claim, "because the radiation was too high for the personnel".

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630660)

Failure of using firetrucks has absolutely *nothing* to do with you claim, "because the radiation was too high for the personnel".

Except that well, it does. The internal configuration of the reactor is irrelevant to whether or not fire trucks were used to cool the reactor. One fire truck cannot maintain hundreds of liters per second, but enough of them can (and they were obviously using more than one fire truck). Unless no one can get close enough to operate them, which appears to be the actual problem in this case.

In addition, I imagine these trucks were part of a more comprehensive strategy and weren't expected to shoulder the cooling load by themselves. But if they aren't helping, then I imagine that made things harder for the other parts of the cooling effort that were still operating.

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631698)

Except that well, it does. The internal configuration of the reactor is irrelevant to whether or not fire trucks were used to cool the reactor. One fire truck cannot maintain hundreds of liters per second, but enough of them can (and they were obviously using more than one fire truck). Unless no one can get close enough to operate them, which appears to be the actual problem in this case.

Except that isn't the case at all. The fire trucks were capable of supplying enough cooling water, it's just it took forever to get them on site, connected up and working due to various problems they encountered, like one truck being stuck in the mud, and hose connector issues. By the time they'd got the trucks online most of the damage was already done, except for the hydrogen explosions which came later.

I wish slashdotters would take two goddamn minutes to, say, load up Google and READ THE ACCOUNT OF WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED before spending half an hour arguing with each other over pointless trivia.

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630648)

I'm a Mythbusters fan, but their remote-controlled vehicles suck. They don't even build-in an automatic brake when the vehicle gets out of range of the remote. Furthermore, it's damn difficult to build electronics which can operate in an environment where they are constantly subjected to intense electromagnetic radiation. IIRC the first robots they used in Chernobyl basically drove in and stopped without accomplishing anything.

Finally, the US, France and Germany offered to loan Japan suitable robots. The best thing Japan should have done right after the disaster would have been to accept these offers immediately.

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (1)

WWWWolf (2428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631224)

Mythbusters can make a vehicle remote operated for a weekly TV show.

Except that a discerning viewer might notice they don't produce all of the material for a single episode a week. It's fairly obvious that they can spend a longer time testing a single myth than a week, if the need arises. They seem to sort of buffer their stuff on the background and have multiple bits of stuff going on at once.

So this is what they might say:
"We need a remote-controlled fire truck. How much time do you need?"
"Two weeks."
"...oh, and unlike your normal stuff, it absolutely has to work, because you can't randomly explodinate a fire truck in a residential area - which, by the way, is quite irradiated too."
"Maybe three or four weeks? We're not experts on building this stuff if it absolutely has to work under those conditions, but we can call the experts if needed."
"Let's just skip the middle man. We're calling in the experts, because we don't have that much time anyway."

Re:Mythbusters to the rescue! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631388)

Actually french nuclear intervention team send them 3 remote operated firetruck, a excavator, a bulldozer and 2 team of operators. They refused them for the false pretext those vehicle was unadapted. Those radiation proof remote operated vehicle already exist but for political reason they refuse to use them.

Why did the did that ? They didn't want foreign expert to have access to the site or evaluate the situation.

http://www.groupe-intra.com/index2.htm

For the mythbusters part, it's not trivial to actually build this kind of vehicle, all the electronic must be radiation proof (thing spacial grade equipment) and they are usually wire-linked because radio is unreliable in those environment.

INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629302)

Robots [inl.gov] were sent and it was on Slashdot at the time too. The problem is Robots don't work in radioactive environments unless they have been made for it. You can't harden every existing robot to radiation because they normally don't encounter that level of radiation working in a Car Manufacturing plant. Even we only have 1 facility that specializes in making that kind of equipment. If it's a matter of pride to Japan that "Their" robots didn't help they will find out that the cost to build and maintain that kind of facility is well beyond anything the private sector (Honda) will be willing to put forward.

Re:INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629458)

actually, it's pretty damn easy to harden a robot against radiation. It's called Magnetics and only requires a minimal amount of additional power to shield the electronics. Normal electric motors aren't as bothered by high levels of radiation as people think. What causes problems is the electronic motors and sensors tend to be fried due to eddy currents induced in the chips and circuits.

This is actually solvable through use of either basic electric motors or even better the use of hydraulics. As someone else stated, you can easily convert a firetruck to remote control as long as the electronics are shielded. It's the same principle for most of the first response robots. Simply use existing construction equipment (bob cats, bull dozers) that are mainly hydaulic in orperation and have a the electronics for the remote control is the only item needing magnetic sheilding. Keep in mind that this sheilding does not require a very strong magnetic field and with the unit having an alternator, you simply use that to provide the needed power to a small battery that ensures the electronics are continuously shielded.

Re:INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629780)

actually, it's pretty damn easy to harden a robot against radiation. It's called Magnetics and only requires a minimal amount of additional power to shield the electronics. Normal electric motors aren't as bothered by high levels of radiation as people think. What causes problems is the electronic motors and sensors tend to be fried due to eddy currents induced in the chips and circuits.

What? What is this "Magnetics" and how does that protect against gamma rays? Surely not a magnetic field, as it doesn't do squat against high energy photons. And what do eddy currents have to do with high levels of radiation?

Re:INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (4, Interesting)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630150)

What? What is this "Magnetics" and how does that protect against gamma rays?

Most of a robot is built with some fairly old-school stuff, like steel and copper, and this is unaffected by gamma rays (in the short term). The robot moves through the use of magnetics ie: Electric Motors. It turns out that most electric motors, along with the steel and rubber used in most robots is short-term invulnerable to low intensity (and even fairly high intensity) radiation. The issue is that certain types of radiation generate electric (and magnetic) fields which play havoc with some of the fancy sensors used in the newer brushless DC motor designs. The solution is to redesign the magnetics of the robot such that they use old-school technologies which operate happily in extreme environments.

Radiation sources like gamma rays will eventually effect some of the key non-electronic systems of robots. In particular, they can break down insulation. Also, they can render the entire robot radioactive, and not safe to be around people. Prolonged exposure to high-energy sources may also damage bearing surfaces, preventing robot motion. However, long before any of this happens, the electronics will act up.

The GP poster was trying to suggest: is (a) take a regular robot, (b) install radiation protected electronics, (c) use a bunch of old-school servo-motor technologies (like DC motors and resolvers), and (d) you will have a short-term survivable rad-hardened robot.

Re:INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630056)

Wrong kind of radiation. You are thinking of electromagnetic radiation, not atomic radiation. If you're in Gamma, the you're screwed electronics wise. Need specific rad hard stuff and lots of sheilding.

Gamma will break down silicon junctions over time, permanently damaging the electonics.

Re:INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#38632280)

It's the control systems and sensors that are vulnerable to radiation. The electromechanical systems aren't.

Re:INL - Robots were sent to Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38632284)

The deleterious effects of high energy radiation have nothing to do with "magnetics." They directly damage the crystal structure of integrated circuits, which causes their electrical properties (leakage, gain, bandwidth, offset, etc) to degenerate. The only possible way radiation could damage an electric motor is by breaking down the lubricant in the bearings or killing the controller electronics if it's new enough to have them.

Also, photons don't interact with static magnetic fields. Where did you hear this nonsense?

The Most Imporatant Questions (2, Insightful)

assertation (1255714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629324)

The most important questions go beyond the robots:

Why did they use a design that was pronounced risky by Rand McNally BEFORE the plant was built?

Why did they build it in an earthquake zone and in a zone vulnerable to tsunamis?

I bet a lot of of Japanese business men would love for the focus to stay on some technical failures with the robots.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629456)

"Why did they build it in an earthquake zone and in a zone vulnerable to tsunamis?"

Because they didn't knew it's an earthquake zone. Plate tectonics wasn't discovered by that time.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629586)

I think the Japanese (and the world in general) had a pretty good idea of the relationship between earthquakes and Tsunamis long before plate tectonics was understood. http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/DANIELSC/index.html [evergreen.edu]

Interesting note: Some villagers on Sumatra survived the 2004 Tsunami [wikipedia.org] because their mythology included stories of what happens when there's an earthquake and then the water in the bay recedes (answer: run like hell for high ground).

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631058)

I think the Japanese (and the world in general) had a pretty good idea of the relationship between earthquakes and Tsunamis long before plate tectonics was understood.

Fail. GP said they couldn't predict where earthquakes happen, not that they didn't understand understand earthquakes caused tsunamis*.

* They probably didn't know that either since folk tales are not taken seriously in science, usually for a good reason.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38632084)

The understanding of relationships between earthquakes and fault lines is over 100 years old. The theory of plate tectonics is about 100 years old. Much older than the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

http://www.readinessinfo.com/eqhistory.shtml [readinessinfo.com]

In many cases, the science of seismology confirmed the 'folk tales' surrounding earthquakes and tsunamis.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630816)

Why did they build it in an earthquake zone and in a zone vulnerable to tsunamis?

It's Japan, the whole country is an earthquake zone. But yeah, there was no reason to build so close to the shore. The Onagawa nuclear power plant was 75 km closer to the epicenter, but it was built at 15 meters above sea level. It was fine.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630992)

Why did they build it in an earthquake zone and in a zone vulnerable to tsunamis?

It's Japan, the whole country is an earthquake zone. But yeah, there was no reason to build so close to the shore. The Onagawa nuclear power plant was 75 km closer to the epicenter, but it was built at 15 meters above sea level. It was fine.

There is a good reason (parts delivery by ship, water available for cooling in some cases), but it needs to be weighed with the risk associated with it.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (2)

Killall -9 Bash (622952) | more than 2 years ago | (#38630854)

Why did they build it in an earthquake zone and in a zone vulnerable to tsunamis?

They'd have a hard time building a Japanese nuclear power plant somewhere other than Japan.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630880)

They built it to withstand the tsunamis of record going back hundreds of years. The tsunami last year was greater than the ones on record.

Re:The Most Imporatant Questions (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#38632216)

They also made the very serious mistake of making a reactor that would not passively quench the reaction when power was removed. That's essential to making a safe reactor no matter where you build it.

I was greatly disturbed to learn that the reactors in Japan weren't built that way. They could have been.

Only 1 billion? (1)

leptogenesis (1305483) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629410)

That's about $13 million. To put that into perspective, the Lunar X-prize robotics challenge offers prize money of $30 million; that doesn't even include team sponsorship. According to Wikipedia, the CMU robotics institute's projects alone cost more than $50 million every year. I know...financial crisis and all...but still, a billion yen is not much for robotics research.

They weren't napping (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38629628)

The overlords were overlording over their minions.

Thats what minions are for - to do the actual work. Overlords just sit back and watch the chaos!

They should've asked America for assistance... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38629682)

Just like they did after we dropped two nukes on them, and they surrendered faster than the French.

But why didn't they? Were they unwilling to accept help from Baquack Obamailure, an African-American? Or were they just unwilling to accept ANY help from any non-Japanese people?

If the Japanese were smart, they wouldn't have built any nuclear power plants, and they wouldn't have pulled a 9/11 and attacked Pearl Harbor.

Simple Reason (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630366)

It's pretty simple - Japan doesn't really design robots to do jobs that humans can't do. Japan designs robots so that they don't have to let foreigners into the country. Therefore, most of the robotics research has been to deal with problems introduced by an aging closed society - things like taking care of the elderly [pcworld.com], farming [wired.co.uk] or teaching English to students [aolnews.com] (though the last one is actually South Korea).

Japanese don't want any non-Japanese in their country doing these jobs (I speak from experience) but they're fine blowing billions of dollars to try and solve the problem with robots. Nuclear power plant meltdown isn't this sort of problem so there was no research funding for it.

The Japanese only make sex robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38630672)

Not much use in this case so they had to get the German Waldos in.

Mdsolar and robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631092)

Another anti nuclear leaning mdsolar story surprise surprise.

  Robots don't like working in an environment that not only has high radiation but is covered in debris. Perhaps all new reactors should have a completely isolated from other systems fixed/tracked robotic arms in key areas so they can do repairs change valves in an emergency

The Difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38631330)

The difference, of course, is that the Japanese are focused on research in the consumer aspects of robotics. Their robots are pretty, and some of them have made advances in legged locomotion, but the Japanese are not well known for their battle-hardened rescue or military robots. Most of the research in the US into robotics is funded by the military. That means we produce no-nonsense, no-frills robots with proven technology for these applications (Rescue, reconassiance, etc.). Of course, the US has its fair share of consumer robots as well. Look at Willow Garage, for example. I think that we need funding and research in both sectors to advance the field.

Not that much of an investment (1)

el borak (263323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631526)

Â¥1 billion may sound like a lot, but it's only about $13M. Not exactly a major commitment.

where were the robots? (3, Insightful)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38631946)

Where were the robots? They were in the same place as the dosimeters, hazmat suits, geiger counters, breathing apparatus, standby generators, dual remote electrical hookups (Japan has two electrical standards), stocks of boron, reactor model upgrades, structure vents, and so on. In other words, nowhere. All preparation for emergencies was skipped. No doubt a couple decades of management bonuses were paid for keeping costs down.

This is why nuclear power is unsafe. Because you can't trust humans to run systems where a cost cut today doesn't blow up for 10-20 years. This kind of crap happens in all industries, it's just that in the nuclear industry the "oops" consequences are devastating.

Re:where were the robots? (0)

getto man d (619850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38632206)

This is why nuclear power is unsafe. Because you can't trust humans to run systems where a cost cut today doesn't blow up for 10-20 years. This kind of crap happens in all industries, it's just that in the nuclear industry the "oops" consequences are devastating.

This is why many sources of power are unsafe, e.g. big oil, coal, natural gas, and also have 'devastating' consequences.

Generally it seems that you can't trust most humans, period.

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