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Japan Plans Massive Underground Ice Sheet to Contain Fukushima Radiation

Japan's government on Tuesday announced a $472 million plan aimed at containing a growing reservoir of radioactive coolant at an atomic energy site severely damaged by a 2011 tsunami, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The effort would involve creation of a massive, underground sheet of frozen soil around the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi complex -- a move intended to limit the spread of radiation-tainted groundwater from the area -- as well as construction of a second facility for removing contaminants from fluid applied to prevent overheating of damaged site components.

The ice sheet would extend for roughly one mile below the earth's surface, Bloomberg reported on Sunday. It is not expected to be ready before 2015.

Tuesday's announcement marked the government's first explicit assumption of a decontamination role for the 2011 disaster, the Journal reported. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power, which has long managed the response, last month said that hundreds of tons of contaminated water were probably moving into the ocean each day from beneath the coastal complex.

It was still uncertain if Japanese authorities would assume longer-term duties for managing or funding decontamination activities or the plant's shutdown. Tokyo said it wants to distribute $212 million in support of the newly announced radiation containment initiatives, and noted that it plans to centralize official oversight of contaminated water from the site.

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