Over three years have passed since the devastating Fukushima disaster, yet TEPCO, the plant’s operator, is still struggling to contain radioactive water flowing from the site. A few months ago the company announced plans to build a giant underground ice wall to block the flow of water, but the project has ground to a halt as the company hasn’t been able to make the ground cold enough to create a barrier. Experts warn that at this rate, some of the areas around the plant will need to be abandoned entirely.
TEPCO plans to build a network of underground pipes that will pump refrigerant to freeze the ground, preventing further leakage. However, attempts to achieve freezing temperatures have been unsuccessful and the project is well behind schedule. That means that the contaminated water being used to cool the reactor continues to seep into the surrounding area, and the amount of water – and contamination – is increasing as time goes by.
“We are behind schedule but have already taken additional measures, including putting in more pipes, so that we can remove contaminated water from the trench starting next month,” a spokesman told The Guardian. But some scientists worry that the project is ill-conceived to begin with. Although freezing has been used in the past, it has never been done at this scale or in this timeframe. And while TEPCO expects to clean up the contamination over the next few decades, some areas may be so contaminated at this point that they will simply need to be abandoned altogether.
Via The Guardian