Concerns expressed over $316m Fukushima ice wall

A top nuclear power official has expressed concerns about Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima ice wall project.

Dale Klein, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a senior adviser to Tepco, told Kyodo News in Japan: "I'm not convinced the freeze wall is the best option. What I'm concerned about is unintended consequences. Where does that water go and what are the consequences of that? I think they need more testing and more analysis."
Fukushima workers
The $316m, 1500-metre wall is intended to contain irradiated water and keep Fukushima safe from the damaged nuclear reactors. It is intended to stay in use until 2020, using enough electricity every year to power 13,000 households, according to officials.

By next March Fukushima Daiichi's four damaged reactors will be surrounded by an underground frozen wall that will be a barrier between highly toxic water used to cool melted fuel inside reactor basements and clean groundwater flowing in from surrounding hills.

UK newspaper The Guardian reports that up to 400 tonnes of groundwater that flows into the basements each day must be pumped out, stored and treated – and on-site storage is edging closer to capacity. Decommissioning the plant will be impossible until Tepco addresses the water crisis.

The wall is being built with technology that has never been used on such a large scale. Tepco has also had problems freezing irradiated water – using the same method being used to build the underground wall – that has accumulated in underground trenches, raising concerns that the ice technology is flawed.

The company had safely removed 1200 of the 1500 nuclear fuel assemblies that were being stored in a pool in Reactor 4 when the tsunami smashed into the plant, knocking out backup power supplies and sending three of its reactors into meltdown.

Attempts to address the buildup of contaminated water in reactor basements suffered a serious setback last year when storage tanks sprung leaks. Meanwhile, the plant's water treatment facility, which can remove all radioactive nuclides except tritium, has been suspended several times owing to malfunctions.

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