Japan is set to deploy into outer space two satellites that will specifically monitor the environmental damages made around the crippled Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear power plants. The lift off will occur from a Russian space centre in the Ural region.
Developed by the Kyoto University and to be launched by a Ukranian rocket, the two satellites will regularly snap images of the nuclear centres from outer space, as well as their surrounding areas.
"The satellites have a number of missions and monitoring the two nuclear plants is part of them," Shinichi Nakasuka, a professor at the Japanese state-run university and project leader, told AFP.
The two satellites are likewise equipped to regularly receive data, including radiation levels, from instruments near the two plants. "I hope that the data will help Japan and Ukraine correctly acknowledge the impact on the environment near the two plants," Nakasuka said.
The devices will also monitor the levels of global rivers worldwide. At least 22 countries, including Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Bangladesh will receive the data "as part of efforts to avoid damage from major floods," he added.
Reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant went into meltdown after a tsunami plunged into it, triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March 2011. Chernobyl is the site of the world's worst civilian nuclear accident in 1986.
The Ukrainian rocket Dnepr, 34.3 metres high and with a diameter of 3 metres, will hurtle the two satellites into space. Originally intended as a ballistic missile called SS-18, it was re-utilised as a spatial vehicle.
The University of Tokyo developed the two satellites, Hodoyoshi-3 and Hodoyoshi-4, at $2.9 million each.