The Sakura is "very compact, as it has to go down stairways just 70cm wide and turn around on landings that are also 70cm," Eiji Koyanagi fuRO's vice director, told DigiInfo TV at Japan Robot Week last month (watch the video below). "Coolant water is leaking from somewhere inside the reactor, because no matter how much water is pumped in, the level doesn't stay above 60cm. But unless that space can be filled with water, the melted-down fuel rods can't be removed safely, so Sakura's first job is to find out where the cracks are."
Its developers say the robot is especially adept at negotiating stairs and ramps, including changes in slope. "The part [of the buildings] above ground slopes at 40 degrees, and that below ground at 42 degrees," Koyanagi said. "This difference of just two degrees is very hard for a robot to handle. What's more, Sakura has to climb down and then climb up to the top of the suppression pool. That stairway slopes at 53 degrees."
He said fuRO expects to test the robot's mobility and durability in the next month or so. "Once that's done, we'll test its ability to carry the necessary equipment on a stairway. Then we plan to fine-tune Sakura by testing it with TEPCO."
Industrial workplaces are governed by OSHA rules, but this isn’t to say that rules are always followed. While injuries happen on production floors for a variety of reasons, of the top 10 OSHA rules that are most often ignored in industrial settings, two directly involve machine design: lockout/tagout procedures (LO/TO) and machine guarding.
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