Japan has built robots for all kinds of distinctly human tasks—from playing instruments to officiating at weddings—but none have been used in this nuclear mess, notes Reuters. Instead, humans are still being asked to risk their lives. Robots are common elsewhere in the nuclear industry, so what gives? Part of the reason may be cultural, writes Jon Herskovitz: "While Japan is renowned for its cutting edge technology, it also maintains an anachronistic element in its society that relies on humans for tasks that have given way to automation in many other parts of the world."
Another reason may have to do with the age of the plant. "You have to design emergency robots for plants when they are being built," explains an expert from South Korea, so they can better navigate and work the equipment. Fukushima dates from the '70s, before the dawn of the robot age. Neither reason probably makes much sense to the workers remaining at the plant. Click for updates from Japan. (Read more Japan stories.)