LOVELAND- A Colorado company is playing a big role in an effort to fix one of the worst nuclear disasters in modern history. Three years ago, a massive 9.0 earthquake rocked Japan, creating a devastating tsunami and killing more than 19,000 people. It also damaged a nuclear plant on the coast - and it's been spewing radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean ever since.
In a nondescript building near Loveland, though, a series of tests are underway, to see if a Colorado company's invention can lend Japan a helping hand- or in this case, an arm.
"As soon as the disaster happened, our group, the first thing we said is, 'we know we can help there,'" said Marc Rood, business development director for the company Kurion.
The company has spent the past year building a carbon fiber, robotic arm, designed to go where humans cannot: to discover radioactive leaks in the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Kurion is one of only a handful of American companies working on the clean-up at Fukushima.
Ever since an earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, it has been leaking radioactive water, which is used to keep the reactors cool and prevent a nuclear meltdown
Plant operators have managed to siphon some of the tens of millions of gallons of toxic water into storage tanks on site, but Japanese officials estimate about 80,000 gallons of radioactive water have been leaking into the Pacific Ocean daily for the past three years.
That makes removing debris and finding the leaks crucial. The second phase for Kurion will involve another one of their robotic arms, which will repair the leaks.
This week, Japanese observers came to Loveland to see the robotic system in action, before it is shipped from Colorado to Fukushima later this month.
"A lot of people, especially in the Fukushima area, are worried about the radiation and- all of the Japanese people- they wish for this situation to be finished as soon as possible," said Takashi Mitsui, one of the Japanese observers.
They said it has been a tense three years in Japan, filled with fears about radiation.
"This is just step one of what will be a very long process," Rood said, "but hopefully, at the end, something like this will help them get to that end point quicker."
An end point, though, is still a long way off. The clean-up of Fukushima is expected to take 30 years.
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)