An ambitious plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to halt the seepage of contaminated water at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has hit a major glitch: “ice walls” have failed to form in underground trenches.
TEPCO workers are busy installing underground pipes to circulate coolant to create frozen soil walls encircling the No. 1 through No. 4 reactor buildings on the side away from the sea. Reporters were given a peek at the construction work on July 8.
TEPCO intends next March to start circulating coolants through the pipes to create frozen walls to block underground water from flowing into the reactor buildings.
But on the seaward side of the reactor buildings, the utility must first remove around 11,000 tons of contaminated water from underground trenches connected to the No. 2 and No. 3 reactor turbine buildings.
The trenches, built to house electrical cables and water pipes, are supposed to be kept dry. But contaminated water began seeping into them after the onset of the March 2011 nuclear crisis.
The continued presence of water threatens to prevent the creation of outer frozen soil walls encircling the No. 1 through No. 4 reactors, which are a central part of TEPCO’s plans to reduce the amount of contaminated water at the plant.