Roomba Vacuums Nuclear Waste?

The New York Times has a long but fascinating article today about how the nuclear industry and political allies took control of the public perception of nuclear power in Japan. One strategy was to censor school textbooks of any scientific or historical information that might raise doubts. Another was to hire young women to represent the industry, providing a visual reassurance to women who had a special interest in the health and safety of their children.

It’s often been asked why Japan is sending men into the hot zone, under conditions so dire that older men are volunteering for what many see as a suicide mission. Why is the world leader in robotics sacrificing human beings this way? Yesterday’s robot fail was posted here, and there is, ironically, a local connection to New England…

Japan, after all, is the world’s leader in robotics. It has the world’s largest force of mechanized workers. Its humanoid robots can walk and run on two feet, sing and dance, and even play the violin. But where were the emergency robots at Fukushima?

The answer is that the operators and nuclear regulators, believing that accidents would never occur, steadfastly opposed the introduction of what they regarded as unnecessary technology.

“The plant operators said that robots, which would premise an accident, were not needed,” said Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, 77, an engineer and a former president of the University of Tokyo, Japan’s most prestigious academic institution. “Instead, introducing them would inspire fear, they said. That’s why they said that robots couldn’t be introduced.”

Even before the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, Mr. Yoshikawa, a robotics expert, and other researchers began building emergency robots capable of responding to a nuclear accident, eventually producing a prototype called Mooty. The robots were resistant to high levels of radiation and capable of surmounting mounds of rubble.

But the robots never made it into production, forcing Japan, in the aftermath of Fukushima, to rely on an emergency shipment of robots from iRobot, a company in Bedford, Mass., more famous for manufacturing the Roomba vacuum. On Friday, Tepco deployed the first Japanese-made robot, which was retrofitted recently to handle nuclear accidents, but workers had to retrieve it after it malfunctioned.

There’s a great deal in this article that will make Americans uneasy if we consider that the marketing and collusion of government and industry happens here as well. I think much of the disparaging of conservation, common sense and investment in safe, renewable energy is orchestrated, and Japan’s recent history illustrates how that can be done.

Read the article in the New York Times here-Safety Myth Left Japan Ripe for Nuclear Crisis

UPDATE: Japan’s nuclear cleanup could take decades. We’re gonna sell a lot of Roombas.

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5 responses

  1. The energy industry in general, not just nuclear, is using its vast resources to mislead Americans too. Here at home we too have a nice looking female touting the “people of the oil and gas industry” without ever mentioning the dangers of fracting for gas, mountain-top removal for caol mining, off-shore oil drilling where the companies didn’t even bother to remove walruses from their gulf of Mexico “cleanup plans” thus showing their total contempt for wildlife protection, not to speak of the dangers they subject their human workforce to. No accident that their stooges in public office are doing all they can to eliminate funding for rebuilding our railroad infrastucture despite (or because of) rail’s inherent relative energy.efficiency.

    1. And they still act like Jimmy Carter wearing a sweater was worse than burning the flag for heat. We had Dick Cheney saying we were sending our troops to die for ‘our American way of life’. Waste and dumbness and big everything. The American way of life is democracy, not a second Hummer and a mini-mansion.

      1. dick Cheney was right. Imperialism, genocide, ecocide, torture, slavery, raping, looting and pillaging are all proud American traditions and ‘our American way of life’ since 1492! Democracy for the privileged few, that’s what our troops are dying to protect.

  2. What a nice little asssemblage of America trashers.
    Please name a country of any significance that isn’t engaged in what you say we are.
    How many people with second Hummers and a mini mansion do any of you know?
    I don’t personally know any.
    A lot of the “green”gurus are jetting around the globe in private pollution machines while lecturing ordinary people like us.
    Railroads and electric mass traansit are great ideas and we destroyed our networks of both at the behest of oil,rubber,and auto companies,It seems rebuilding such networks is opposed by many conservatives and that is where I am in disagreement with them.
    Problem is that nowadays there has to be a long,wasteful,”environmental impact”study before they can build a damn trolley line!!
    What PRACTICAL solutions have any of you malcontents got for heating,cooling,cooking,etc?
    It seems like you all know how to whine abourt what a terrible country this is without a single constructive thought as to a solution.
    Nancy-do you propose a limit on private property?
    Who decides how much you can have?
    Governor Gump better give up a whole lot before anyone somes around telling me what to hand over.
    Oops,I forgot,he’s a “progressive”so it doesn’t apply.
    We(my wife and I) personally have only one A/c in my house in one room.
    Mostly we use fans and open windows for cross ventilation.
    We keep the house at 58 degrees winter nights.
    Wool blankets are very energy sensible.
    We haven’t got a Hummer or anything like it.No boat.No vacation home.
    And we don’t preach to others how to live.
    I suggest some time you check out the massive environmental destruction that went on under the communist regime during the Iron Curtain era.I have some photo essay books on the subject.Totally unbelieveable and it still goes on.
    China,Russia,Indonesia,India,Brazil.Madagascar just for starters.
    Who ran the colonial empires?Not the US.Our possessions were few and unimportant to our national economy.
    Western Europe was the culprit,yet we have home office philosophers like “klaus”barking about the virtues of these recent colonizers.
    If this country is so bad,find someplae better and good luck there.

  3. this was a really terrific article – I have sent the link to several activists and academics working to contain nuclear energy. And your site looks amazing, too.

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