A government panel in Japan has weighed in on the underground ice wall that forms a 1-mile perimeter surrounding the destroyed Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors and buildings, calling the wall's ability to stop water from seeping into the area only partly successful.
The $320 million wall consists of 1,500 underground tubes, running up to 100 feet below ground, through which a minus-thirty degree Celsius coolant is pumped. The idea was to seal off the underground water flow that would otherwise run into the contaminated area where radioactivity in both soil and structures s is picked up by the water. The cleanup effort at the triple-reactor meltdown site has been plagued by a build up of contaminated water since the accident seven years ago, which began with the Great East Japan earthquake on March 11, 2011.
The contaminated water is treated and stored, but has now reached 1 million tons of water contained in about 1,000 canisters. The water continues to build up, but suggestions of dumping the treated water into the ocean has caused a backlash of concern among fisherman and environmentalists.
The flow of water into the area varies depending on weather conditions. During January, a dry month, water flowing into the plant averaged 83 tons per day. During a recent typhoon, however, it soared to 866 tons per day, according to an Associated Press report.
The panel said about 50 percent of the water flow had been diverted by the ice wall, which leaves an average of 500 tons of water that is collected, treated and stored per day, 300 of which comes from traditional wells and drainage systems and 200 tons of which comes from water that breaches the ice wall's domain.
While the ice wall has some positive effect, it was promised to do more. It currently costs about $9.4 million per month to operate and maintain. Former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Dale Klein, who heads the government committee overseeing the decommissioning effort, said he believed the ice wall was “over-sold … in that it would solve all the release and storage concerns,” which it has not done.
"We recognize that the ice wall has had an effect, but more work is needed to mitigate rainfall ahead of the typhoon season," said Kansai University civil engineering professor chairman Yuzo Onishi, who chaired the panel that evaluated the current status of the ice wall.
The panel urged the Tokyo Electric Power Company, owner of the plant, to put more efforts into traditional wells and drainage tiling on the inland side of the plant.
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So how is water still getting in? Is it rain and surface water that are not affected by the wall, or is there some deficiency in the ice wall?