Robot probe no. 2 dies while exploring a Fukushima reactor

Both machines sent to assess the nuclear reactor's situation failed to complete their mission.

KYODO Kyodo / Reuters

The second robot Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) sent into Fukushima's unit 2 reactor also failed to finish its mission. Earlier this month, the cameras of the first "scorpion" robot that ventured into the reactor malfunctioned after two hours due to extremely high radiation levels. Now, it's the machine's left crawler belt that stopped working (PDF) altogether, forcing TEPCO to cut off its tether and to leave it inside.

Toshiba designed these scorpions specifically to examine Unit 2's condition and to locate the melted uranium fuel within. The information would help Tepco figure out the best and safest way to clean the fuel up. if you're wondering, these machines are called "scorpions" because, with their camera-equipped tails above their bodies, they look quite like the arachnid:

The power company still isn't sure whether the robot's crawler belt stopped working due to the radiation levels inside or due to all the debris the first machine wasn't able to clear. It managed to send some data back, though, and TEPCO plans to evaluate whatever information it got.

Every little thing will help, after all, since the company chose to stick to its cleanup schedule even though both exploration missions failed. It will begin conjuring up plans for fuel removal this summer and will start the actual cleanup process in 2021. But before that, TEPCO will send a tiny underwater robot to explore the Unit 1 reactor in the next few weeks -- we'll let you know how that one fares, as well.