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article imageFukushima power plant ice wall is a 'Last ditch effort' for Japan

By Karen Graham     Apr 4, 2016 in Environment
Japanese officials have activated a portion of the mile-long ice wall built around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in a last ditch effort to contain the radiation that has been leaking from the plant for the past five years.
Costing $312 million, the mile-long structure was completed last month, nearly a year behind schedule. On Wednesday last week, Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority gave its approval for TEPCO to activate the subterranean ice wall.
The ice wall consists of a series of underground refrigeration pipes, embedded in the soil 100-feet down to the bedrock surrounding the four reactors at the damaged power plant. Once fully turned on, the barrier will become a massive ice wall surrounding the plant.
Mother Nature News reports that in a statement released by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), officials said: “We will create an impermeable barrier by freezing the soil itself all the way down to the bedrock that exists below the plant. When groundwater flowing downhill reaches this frozen barrier, it will flow around the reactor buildings, reaching the sea just as it always has, but without contacting the contaminated water within the reactor buildings.”
One portion of the ice wall was activated on Thursday, with additional parts set to be activated over the next few months. TEPCO says this is a precautionary measure to make sure they don't run into any snags and can make any adjustments as needed.
It has been five years since the earthquake and resulting tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. For the past five years, TEPCO has run into innumerable problems trying to stop the flow of radiation-contaminated water from running into the ocean.
Almost 800,000 gallons of contaminated water are stored at the crippled power plant in 1,000 industrial tanks. It is hoped that when the ice barrier is fully activated, and the earth around the barrier is frozen down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit, the over 400 tons of groundwater currently entering the plant's contaminated reactors will cease.
Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, urged caution, according to the Huffington Post. “It would be best to think that natural phenomena don’t work the way you would expect,” he told reporters Wednesday.
The activation of the ice wall comes just a few weeks after TEPCO finally conceded that robots designed to access the interior of the damaged plant to look for melted fuel rods were “dying” from the high levels of radiation.
Unable to get inside the plant because of the extremely high radiation, it is estimated the decommissioning process will take decades and cost well over $15 billion. The bad news is that many "experts" still are saying that a "controlled release" of the contaminated water into the ocean is the only solution to the groundwater problem at the plant. But, as everyone knows, this is a contentious subject.
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