Japan’s nuclear regulators call for operator of crippled plant to find solution to thousands of tons of radioactive water
Toyoshi Fuketa, the commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has called on Tokyo Electric Power Co. to re-examine its plan to freeze around 11,000 thousand tons of contaminated water that is sloshing about in trenches dug around the reactor buildings.
The water is a mixture of water sprayed on the reactor chambers to keep them cool and ground water that has soaked into the trenches.
Tepco has staked a great deal of its containment effort on a never-before attempted scheme to insert frozen ducts into the highly contaminated water beneath the three reactors that suffered meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The move was designed to stop the water moving between different areas of the site and is part of the plan to construct an “ice wall” around the site to stop ground water from seeping into the trenches and becoming mixed with the radioactive water.
“As long as the freezing work is not successful, the project cannot progress to the stage of forming the ice wall,” Mr Fuketa told local reporters.
Two months after the work began, the water in the trenches is still not fully frozen and there is concern that it will gradually escape into the Pacific, which is just yards away.
Tepco has blamed the failure of the water to freeze on fluctuating water levels, but the nuclear agency has called on the company to devise countermeasures to ensure the water freezes solid.
There is also concern that the “ice wall” – presently under construction and in the form of pipes sunk nearly 100 feet into the ground that are designed to freeze the surrounding earth -employ similar freezing technology and will prove ineffective, failing to halt an estimated 400 tons of ground water becoming contaminated every day.