The Japanese government plans to create an immense, half-billion-dollar wall of ice beneath Fukushima's defunct nuclear power plants in order to contain unchecked leakages of radioactive water.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced this week the launch of a 47 billion yen (US$528 million) scheme which will involve the freezing of soil around the crippled reactors in order to divert groundwater away from the plant.
The scheme, which will take two years to complete, will require burying pipes vertically in the soil and channeling refrigerant through them in order to freeze the surrounding area.
The launch of the scheme comes just following the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s announcement that leakages from Fukushima’s ruined nuclear plant continue to worsen, with radiation readings around tanks holding contaminated water surging by over 20 per cent to hit their highest ever levels.
A whopping 338,000 tonnes of water contaminated to varying degrees remains stored at the Fukushima site in hundreds of tanks and underground pits after being used to cool down reactors which suffered melt down during the March 2011 tsunami disaster.
Leaks in the tanks and connecting pipes have since been discovered, while the problem of environmental contamination has been exacerbated by the presence of naturally flowing groundwater beneath the plant, which is mixing with the radioactive runoff.
According to Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the utility responsible for the operation of the Fukushima plant prior to the disaster, this has led to 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater flowing into the sea each day.
Abe lambasted TEPCO’s failure to manage these worsening problems, saying the government would now step in with public funds to properly deal with the issue.
“The government needs to resolve the problem by standing at the forefront,” he said at a meeting of his nuclear disaster response team. “The government will do its best and take the necessary fiscal action.”
According to Abe, the new plan would finally bring an end to the worsening crisis and the damage it has caused to Japan’s international reputation.
“The world is closely watching to see whether the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, including the contaminated water problem, can be achieved,” he said.