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Fukushima Fallout
Why Japan relied on foreign robotic technology when its nuclear crisis struck.
By Tim Hornyak

Two months after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated northern Japan, leaving some 26,000 people dead and causing apocalyptic damage, workers finally entered the reactor buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Crippled by the killer waves and subsequent hydrogen explosions, radiation fallout worries from the plant had eased somewhat. Nevertheless, a large area of Fukushima Prefecture surrounding the plant remained uninhabitable. Fears surrounding the contamination of local produce and seafood, as well as the stain on Japan’s public image, would likely linger for years.

For all these reasons, Japanese officials ranked the accident alongside the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Yet despite the fact that robots had played a role in alleviating the Chernobyl disaster and the earlier event at Three Mile Island, Japanese-made robots failed to make an appearance at the Fukushima site until weeks after the disaster began.

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