[personal profile] kittenscribble
I woke this morning to the news that the attempt to use helicopters to dump seawater on the reactors was called off, because the radiation above the plants was just too strong.

I respect their pulling back the pilots in those cases, but it made me wonder: why can't we use robots? We have UAVs that can fly over mountains in the Middle East and target insurgents. Can't we arm a UAV with a water cannon, or even just a bucket on a string, and fly it right over the reactor without irradiating a single human being?

Am I missing something? Why are we not doing this? I mean, if anyone can design a robot to do this sort of thing, I would think it would be the Japanese.

Date: 2011-03-17 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] turnberryknkn.livejournal.com
I think part of the problem is that water weighs a lot. And they need a *lot* of water. You can see that they're using Chinook, heavy-lift two-rotor cargo helicopters, and, to the best of my knowledge, no existing UAV has anything even within an order of magnitude of that level of cargo capacity.

Likewise, on the ground, they're reportedly trying to use riot control water cannon, mounted on heavy vehicles the size of buses -- or light tanks. Again, I'm not aware of anybody who has made a control system that can drive a vehicle that size through normal conditions -- let alone the debris strewn chaos at Fukushima.

There are lots of engineers around the world working to develop that technology, but as I understand, we're not there yet.

Date: 2011-03-17 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
Good point. To be honest I have no idea what kind of payload UAVs are capable of carrying. I know that there are many types, and that we've used them for cargo airdrops and carrying missiles, but those would of course weigh less than a lot of water at a time.

A quick google search for heavy-lift UAVs found a proposal for an aircraft that could carry payloads of up to 4500 kg, but no news on whether these were actually built. At that rate you'd still need to make at least ten passes a day to just get to normal cooling standards (I think I read somewhere that you'd need 50 tons of water a day to keep a reactor at decent temperatures). So maybe it's not that practical.

I know that they're doing their best out there, but I can't help but wish that our technology had more ways to protect us.

Date: 2011-03-17 03:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] turnberryknkn.livejournal.com
(nods nods) Per Wikipedia, the most advanced UAV in wide deployment -- the USAF's Global Hawk UAV, the same one they're using to try to get pictures of the Fukushima plant -- has a max payload of about 3 tons. A Chinook, in contrast, has a 20+ ton payload.

In addition, to be most effective, you would need to hover over the target and drop the water, and the Global Hawks fly, not hover. They can deliver missiles and bombs with pinpoint accuracy, but only because those missiles and bombs can steer themselves to the target, which doesn't help much with delivering water.

Really not a whole lot of options there in Fukushima, unfortunately.

Date: 2011-03-17 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-sunshine.livejournal.com
My first thought was that Grant from Mythbusters needs to get on this, but after reading the comments, I'm guessing that's wishful thinking. Robots do seem like they would be the best answer if possible.

Date: 2011-03-17 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bizarrojack.livejournal.com
Clearly I did not read comments before posting my own, haha

Date: 2011-03-17 07:37 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-03-17 06:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
I dream that someday reactor plants will be populated solely by Wall-E type robots, trundling sturdily around to keep an eye on readouts, inspect and maintain the valves, etc.

well actually...

Date: 2011-03-17 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-sunshine.livejournal.com
The U.S. military has sent an unmanned aerial drone to fly above the complex and take pictures.
http://www.npr.org/2011/03/17/134611731/helicopters-douse-crippled-nuclear-reactor-in-japan

So maybe that's a start?

Date: 2011-03-17 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bizarrojack.livejournal.com
They could get the mythbusters to set up a rig for remote controlling the helicopter like they do with cars all the time.

Date: 2011-03-18 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-sunshine.livejournal.com
So I was reading that one of that major problems is that they need to get power back to the pumps, so they're trying to figure out the logistics of getting lines back out there. This might be a dumb question, but what about generators? Not small home ones, but big, hospital sized ones? Short term solution, sure, but while they're working on getting the physical lines back, it could help?

Date: 2011-03-18 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
They already have a diesel generator attached to at least one of the units, and GE is sending gas turbines over to help out. With the damage to the area and infrastructure, though, it's apparently been hard to get anything at all to the plants.

Murphy's Law has really been in force out there.

Date: 2011-03-18 03:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-sunshine.livejournal.com
Oh! I hadn't seen anything about the reactors being built by GE before. I guess it makes sense though.

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