Fukushima's Ice Wall Is Already Running Into Problems: Report

A plan to construct an ice sheet at the Fukushima nuclear reactor to limit the spread of radioactive water has already encountered a setback.

"We have yet to form an ice plug because we can't get the temperature low enough to freeze the water," said an unidentified spokesman from Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the disabled Fukushima Daiichi atomic complex.

The operator has laid out a plan to build a massive underground wall of frozen soil that is intended to prevent the radioactive water leaking out of the Fukushima reactor basements from spreading into the surrounding land. The company is digging a series of trenches to house a large network of pipes beneath the reactor that will pump out the refrigerant needed to freeze the soil, the Japan Times reported on Wednesday.

"We are behind schedule, but have already taken additional measures, including putting in more pipes, so that we can remove the contaminated water from the trench starting next month," a Tokyo Electric Power spokesman said.

Ice walls have been used before by engineers constructing tunnels near water channels. However, the ice sheet planned for Fukushima will be much larger and will have to last a much longer time.

Meanwhile, Toshiba -- the contractor handling the initial stages of cleanup at Fukushima -- is planning to deploy a specialized U.S. technology that could allow it to understand what is going on inside the site's three ruined reactor cores, which are too unsafe for workers to enter, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

In a few days Toshiba is expected to ink an agreement with the U.S. Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory to use the technology to produce three-dimensional models of the insides of the reactors. Officials want to find out to what degree the reactor cores have melted and to what degree they remain intact.

June 18, 2014
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A plan to construct an ice sheet at the Fukushima nuclear reactor to limit the spread of radioactive water has already encountered a setback.

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