Who could have possibly foreseen this?
A year ago we wished TEPCO the best of luck with the construction of the "Game of Thrones"-esque 1.4km giant wall of ice that was designed to surround the exploded Fukushima power plant and slow the movement of irradiated water below the damaged reactors, preventing it from flowing over into the ocean and surrounding land. A plan so idiotic we were at a loss for words trying to list the ways it could go wrong (we didn't bother with how it could go right because it clearly couldn't).
And, as it turns out, making a project overly complicated and ridiculous doesn't assure it will be a success. Quite the contrary. As Japan JIJI reports, Tepco said the project, which remains in its early stages, is experiencing a problem with an inner ice wall designed to contain highly radioactive water that is draining from the basements of the wrecked reactors.
A Tepco spokesman added that "We have yet to form an ice plug because we can’t get the temperature low enough to freeze the water."
Oh, you mean to say that a he plan whose success relies on freezing water may fail because... it is impossible to get the water to freeze? Truly some of the smartest Japanese scientists must have been behind this brilliant strategy, or at least those who were not involved in the planning of the BOJ's QE program of course.
The underlying idea was simple enough... on paper.
Trenches are being dug for a huge network of pipes under the plant that will have refrigerant pumped through them. If successful, it would freeze the soil and form a physical barrier, significantly slowing the rate at which uncontaminated groundwater flows into the reactor basements and becomes contaminated.
The coolant used in the operation is an aqueous solution of calcium chloride, which is cooled to minus 30 degrees. The ice wall employs the same technology as the trench project and involves the same contractor, Kajima Corp.
Alas, the reality is proving to be far more complicated than theory - just ask the Fed:
The idea of freezing a section of the ground was proposed last year. Engineers have used the technique to build tunnels near watercourses. But scientists point out it has never been used on such a large scale, or for the length of time Tepco is proposing.
Coping with the huge amount of water at the plant is proving to be a major challenge for Tepco, as it tries to clean up the mess after the worst nuclear disaster in a generation.
As well as having to collect vast quantities of water used to cool the melted down reactors, Tepco has been pumping up and storing water that drains down from inland mountains to the sea.
Full decommissioning of the plant is expected to take several decades. An exclusion zone remains in place, and experts warn that some former residential areas may have to be abandoned as settlements because of persistently high levels of radiation.
May have to be abandoned? Can't Japan just raise the minimum safe radiation dosage as it did back in 2011. That way people can assume they are still safe. And after all the whole exercise is to boost confidence, isn't it.
In conclusion: “We are behind schedule, but have already taken additional measures, including putting in more pipes, so that we can remove contaminated water from the trench starting next month,” a spokesman said.
Wait, wasn't the issue the temperature of the water, not the number of pipes. Oh who cares anyway, as long as someone pretends to be doing some work to "fix" the world's worst nuclear accident in history, having long since surpassed Chernobyl in severity. One can't have the locals realize the government is hopeless and that the Fukushima situation was a complete disaster from the start, and what's worse, one which can not be fixed. Especially now that Abenomics has failed, and the Nikkei is still down for the year, thus not providing the required dose of distraction from an increasingly irradiated life.