Government officials announced yesterday that the equivalent of $473 million has been allocated to construct a subterranean “ice wall” around the Fukushima nuclear reactors, using pipes filled with -40 Celsius coolant, to prevent contaminated water from coming into contact with groundwater. The technique has only been used on a small scale before, and not for radioactive contamination, but is seen by officials as a better option than the current efforts to cool the reactors – efforts which create roughly 400 tonnes of contaminated water per day.
The Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and three reactors subsequently melted down when cooling systems malfunctioned. And while efforts to pump water in to the cool the reactors have been made, large quantities of radioactive water have been hard to contain, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).
Water treatment systems are also being upgraded as a part of the massive government project, mostly to take on the build-up of contaminated water. Last month TEPCO revealed that nearly 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked – where it leaked to exactly is still unknown. Regulators have classified water leaks in the area as a three on the seven-point INES scale. The meltdown itself was classed as a level seven – one of only two nuclear events to hit that level, the other being the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.