14 Months after abandoning the "Game of Thrones"-esque frozen-water-wall containment plan for Fukushima, Bloomberg reports that TEPCO expects to begin freezing a soil barrier by the end of the year to stop a torrent of water entering the wrecked Fukushima nuclear facility, moving a step closer to fulfilling a promise the Japanese government made to the international community more than two years ago. Officials noted, rather uninspiringly, the frozen wall, along with other measures, "should be able to resolve the contaminated water issues before the Olympic games."
When they unveiled this "Pacific-Rim-like' 1.4km long ice-wall a year ago, we snarkily wished them luck, questioning their sanity. Of course, we got a hint when TEPCO admitted that "we have yet to form an ice plug because we can’t get the temperature low enough to freeze the water."
At the time, there was no Plan B - though we noted that 'wasting' JPY 32 billion on the project so far was likely helping GDP.
But now Plan B appears to be the same as failed Plan A... (as Bloomberg reports)
“In the last half-year we have made significant progress in water treatment,” Akira Ono, chief of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, said Friday during a tour of the facility north of Tokyo. The frozen wall, along with other measures, “should be able to resolve the contaminated water issues before the Olympic games.”
Solving the water management problems would be a major milestone, but Tokyo Electric is still faced with a number of challenges at the site. The company must still remove highly radioactive debris from inside three wrecked reactors, a task for which no applicable technology exists. The entire facility must eventually be dismantled.
Currently, about 300 metric tons of water flow into the reactor building daily from the nearby hills. Tepco, as the nation’s biggest utility is called, has struggled to decommission the reactors while also grappling with the buildup of contaminated water.
Even four years after the meltdown and despite promises from policymakers, water management remains one of Tepco’s biggest challenges in coping with the fallout of Japan’s worst nuclear disaster.
The purpose of the ice wall -- a barrier of soil 30 meters (98 feet) deep and 1,500 meters long which is frozen to -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) -- is to prevent groundwater from flooding reactor basements and becoming contaminated.
“It is a very important issue for the public, and good water management is needed for Tepco to restore the public’s trust.”
The proposed ice wall has never been done on such a scale, and there could be operational issues due to the complicated nature of the project, according to Lake Barrett, former head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Nuclear Waste Management.
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised in 2013 that the government would take the lead in resolving the water management issues at the Fukushima site ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Two years later, hundreds of tons of water continue to pour into the reactor building, while tainted water at other parts of the site overflows into the ocean.