Something that has long been on the lips of international and domestic observers during the nuclear crisis has been, “where are Japan’s infamous robots?” While the country that most represents the automated dream has seen a book published detailing Japan’s disaster relief robots currently in development, they come as little comfort to the families of those involved in repairing and dealing with the damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima. These criticisms have not gone unnoticed, from NHK:

SDF to add robots to drills for nuclear accidents

iRobot PackBot enters Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor building

iRobot PackBot enters Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor building (Source: TEPCO)


Japan’s Self-Defense Forces want to add robots to their equipment for dealing with nuclear accidents and incorporate them into their regular training drills.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters on Tuesday that it’s an irony of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident that US-made robots were initially used to deal with the disaster, even though Japan is a world leader in robot technology.

Kitazawa said he wants the Self-Defense Forces to use robots in its regular nuclear accident drills, including unmanned helicopters that can operate in a high-radiation environment.

He said the SDF needs to develop expertise in using such equipment in order to be able to deal with possible nuclear accidents in Japan and its neighboring countries.

The drones mentioned by Kitazawa are the US Global Hawks provided battle damage assessments in the initial stages of the nuclear crisis, as shown in the top video below (JP). Later PackBots and remote cameras provided surveys of the damage within the facilities, as shown in the video at the bottom of this post.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch