With operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) running out of options on how to stop the leaking of contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, they are now looking into a technology used in the 1860s for coal mines. A feasibility study is being prepared now on how underground ice walls can be used to stop this “urgent problem” that has also been called a “state of emergency“.
These ice walls were used to block radiation in an experiment conducted at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a facility that produces plutonium for atomic weapons. Kajima Corp, the construction company who constructed the Fukushima plant, has until March 2014 to complete a feasibility study. The wall is estimated to run 1.4 kilometers (0.9 mile) underground of the plant, which will become the longest continuous stretch of artificial frozen earth. However, if the plan pushes through, it will be finished by 2015 at least, and the cost implications of such an undertaking is still unknown at this time. As of the moment, the plant is leaking around 300 tons of contaminated water, laced with radioactive particles of cesium, strontium linked to bone cancer, and tritium, into the Pacific Ocean everyday.
But there are also those who are skeptical of this proposal, saying that it is nothing but a “cash cow” for Kajima. Richard McPherson, a California-based energy and defense consultant, said Japan will be wasting a huge amount of energy to maintain the coolant below freezing temperature in such a scenario. Bernd Braun, a geotechnical consultant in Texas who works on ground-freezing projects, says that it would require 9.8 megawatts of power to maintain an underground ice wall. That is enough energy to supply electricity to around 3,300 Japanese households. But with a government that is desperate to take any drastic action to stem the radioactive leakage, this suggestion seems feasible. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that this project is unprecedented in scale, so they must “step forward and support its realization.”
[ via Bloomberg ]