Fukushima Ice Wall Construction Begins Final Phase, Experts Cast Doubts

Fukushima Ice wall

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings or TEPCO has released the final phase of the Fukushima underground “ice wall”.

The final phase of the Fukushima underground “ice wall” has started on Tuesday, with the last section of the roughly 1.5-kilometer barrier being carefully frozen.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings or TEPCO has already activated the refrigeration system that will create the last 7-meter section of the frozen soil barrier around (and enclosing) the disabled power plant in Fukushima, Japan. The efforts are intended to stop the groundwater from seeping into the crippled facility and coming into contact with the contaminated water and/or nuclear fuel.

TEPCO started pumping coolant into the remaining section through underground pipes used as vessels for circulation. According to reports, it is expected to last for over a couple of months before the wall completely freezes, although the narrowing gap between walls poses a problem for the workers. As the narrowing gap causes water to flow more quickly, the time needed to freeze that portion of soil becomes longer, thus it becomes more improbable to finish the barrier within the projected timeframe.

The construction of the underground wall started in March last year, with the government shouldering the price tag which amounts to around $400 million.

The icy barrier is expected to put an end to the feared groundwater contamination around and at the collapsed nuclear power plant. However, some experts still conjure some doubts about the effectiveness of the protective wall.

The cleanup of the devastated power plant, which succumbed to a meltdown in 2011 as a final result of an undersea magnitude 9.0 earthquake, is being overseen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Masato Kino, who is an official from METI, during the commencement of the final phase, carefully spoke about the occasion and noted that the expected results from the effort are more important than the act of freezing the mentioned particular section of soil.

Before the construction of the frozen barrier commenced last year, 760 tons of water flowed to a landward direction. That figure has been presently lowered to roughly 580 tons, and TEPCO aims to bring that current figure down to lower than a hundred tons.

As stated above, some experts are skeptical when it comes to the efficiency and effectiveness of the wall. The country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) stated that it still hasn’t done an independent analysis, according to a report.

On August 15, NRA described the barrier as “ultimately only a supporting measure” to other systems that are used to prevent the contamination. A “subdrain system,” which consists of 41 wells surrounding the reactor buildings, is considered the primary safety system to prevent clean water outside the site from mixing with the contaminated water inside the structure. This subdrain system pumps out around 500 tons of water on a daily basis.

The commencement of the construction has been slow since careful work is being done, while keeping the amount of water on a stable level is also considered a must.

Professors and experts keeping tabs on the progress of the ice wall seem to arrive at the same conclusion, which describes the icy wall as only a “temporary measure,” and states that “other types of wall should be considered as well.”

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