Japan’s Planning to Build an “Ice Wall” Around Fukushima

The Japanese government has stepped in and announced that it will invest $500 million in the project

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Japan announced two weeks ago that a tank full of radioactive water at its damaged Fukushima nuclear plant had sprung a leak. A few weeks prior, Tepco, the company operating the plant, confirmed that around 300 tons of water used for cooling the reactors had been seeping through the ground and into the ocean each day. Now, the Japanese government has stepped in and announced that it will invest $500 million to help contain these problems. The majority will be spent on building a giant underground frozen wall around the contamination site.

The BBC explains:

Under the government plan, a wall of frozen earth will be created around the reactors using pipes filled with coolant to prevent groundwater coming into contact with contaminated water being used to cool fuel rods.

Dr Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, told the BBC that the situation at the nuclear power plant was an “unprecedented crisis” and that it was “getting worse”.

He said the plan to freeze the ground around the site was “challenging”, and a permanent solution was needed.

No one has ever tried to contain radioactive waste with the frozen ground method, the BBC writes, and it has only been tested on much smaller contamination sites.

Around 400 tons of water are still needed on a daily basis to keep the damaged reactors cool. All of that contaminated water has to be stored somewhere, but the BBC says that Tepco is quickly running out of space. Given the leaks and storage issues, in the long run, Tepco and the government are considering investing in new technologies that would treat the water for radioactive particles, the Guardian writes. If the water could be returned to legally acceptable levels of radiation, it could then be dumped into the ocean, where it supposedly would be harmlessly diluted, or evaporated. 

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Fukushima Nuclear Plant is Leaking, Again 
The Health Effects of Fukushima’s Radiation Weren’t So Bad