Today, Reuters asked the questions we've all been thinking. Namely, "This is Japan, right? They've got lots of robots, right? So why aren't there robots helping out at Fukushima?"
The answer they got is somewhat unsatisfying. Mostly, there's a lot of, "Nope, no robots being used right now. Sorry." But there are a couple of interesting facts in the article.
• Robots are a part of the wider nuclear industry, capable of doing tasks like detecting radiation, and scaling walls. And robots were used in cleanup at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
• There are no robots currently working at Fukushima Daiichi. It's unclear why. Although, there is, apparently, one radiation-detecting robot on site.
• There is one possible reason why robots aren't being used at Fukushima. It all comes back to power plant design. A South Korean nuclear official told Reuters that robots and power plants have to be designed with each other in mind. Fukushima Daiichi, which dates to the 1970s, may simply not be navigable to newer nuclear helper 'bots.
Via Jer Thorp
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.