Road sign indicating where to turn for the Fukushima-1 plant

More than three years after the earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast Japan and left a major nuclear plant in Fukushima paralyzed, efforts to contain the nuclear disaster are still facing major hurdles as the area around it remains a ghost town. Last week, Tokyo Electric Power Co., better known as TEPCO, revealed that an ice wall that was designed to stem the flow of radioactive water seeping from the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant isn’t freezing as fast as they hoped.

In the three months since construction began, temperatures in the ground around the barrier meant to contain the contaminated water in underground trenches have only fallen to around 15 degrees (59 degrees Fahrenheit) and TEPCO announced a new plan to accelerate the freezing process—dumping 10 tons of ice every day until the wall forms.

TEPCO made the announcement during a meeting of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on July 23. Apparently a small stream of water has kept the ice wall from freezing properly. The Japanese electric company said it has not been able to get temperatures down to about 5 degrees (41 degrees Fahrenheit), the ideal temperature to form the barrier. The original design of the ice wall called for it to be completely formed by late May. So to quicken the freezing process, TEPCO said it will start dumping huge amounts of ice and also increasing the number of underground pipes to quickly lower temperatures.

Starting August 1, TEPCO will drop about 10 tons of ice and one ton of dry ice per day into the trenches surrounding the reactors. If temperatures drop enough and the wall starts forming, the plan is to reduce the daily ice dump to about four or five tons. And they will also install an additional four pipes to bring the total up to 23 pipes pumping coolant.

During the meeting last week, a building engineering professor, who is part of the investigation panel charged with finding a solution to the nuclear disaster, voiced concern over the logistics of the ice wall. He doubted that the frozen barrier would be able to form and urged the committee to consider just filling in the trenches with concrete to prevent any of the contaminated water from flowing out.

The NRA seemed confident that TEPCO would be able to see results of their ice dumping by the middle of next month. Although many remain skeptical, hopefully there will be some good news about the ice wall soon to give the people of Fukushima Prefecture who are still reeling from the daily onslaught of bad news something to be happy about.

Source: Yahoo! Japan (Sankei Shimbun)Asahi Shimbun
Feature image: Wikipedia- VOA News