More than four years after the catastrophic tsunami that crippled several nuclear reactors in Fukushima, the Japanese utility that owns the site is struggling to deal with a continuous flood of radioactive water.Hmmm...why is it again that nuclear power is so expensive? Geez, what a unmitigated disaster.
The tsunami knocked off power at the nuclear plant, which led to the meltdown of three of the six reactors, with a fourth severely damaged. The ongoing release of radioactive material has prevented anyone from entering parts of the complex.
But getting a handle on the mess, let alone permanently cleaning up the site, has been extraordinarily difficult. The problem is the daily flood of rainwater that flows downhill towards the sea, rushing into the mangled radioactive site. An estimated 300 tons of water reaches the building each day, and then becomes contaminated. TEPCO, the utility that owns the site, has been furiously building above ground storage tanks for radioactive water. Storing the water prevents it from being discharged into the sea, but this Sisyphean task does nothing to ultimately solve the problem as the torrent of water never ends. TEPCO has already put more than 500,000 tons of radioactive water in storage tanks.
To reduce the 300 tons of newly created radioactive water each day, TEPCO must cut off the flow of groundwater into the nuclear complex. To do that, it plans on building an ice wall that will surround the four reactors. TEPCO plans on building an intricate array of coolant pipes underneath the reactors, freezing the soil into a hardened ice wall that will block the flow of water. The ice wall will stretch one and a half kilometers around the reactors.
Great plan, except that it has never been done before. TEPCO may be able to freeze the soil, but there is no telling if it can build an ice wall without any holes that could allow water to seep into the reactor building. Questions surrounding the viability of the ice wall, and with it the prospects for halting the flow of radioactive water, heightened after TEPCO announced in mid-March that it was postponing the project.....
The Japanese government hopes to prevent future nuclear meltdowns by constructing “The Great Wall of Japan,” a controversial $6.8 billion campaign to build around 440 sea walls along the coast to fend off tsunamis.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Containing the Fukushima Mess And Preventing Future Disasters