Fukushima Frozen Wall Not Solid, What You Need To Know

Workers wearing radiation protective gear stand outside of the No. 4 reactor building at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefectureLast week TEPCO admitted that the frozen wall would not fully contain groundwater flowing through the plant. Original estimates of groundwater flowing through the plant were about 600 tons per day. The frozen wall will allow 50 tons per day to flow through the reactor block area. While this is a significant reduction, it isn’t water tight. This is the first time this has been disclosed to the public.

Some reasons why it may not be water tight include small cable ducting tunnels, similar pipes that run through the area or where roads lead in and out of the reactor block area. Installing pipes in these road areas would be problematic. Even creating small bridging structures would be difficult as most of the vehicle traffic is heavy equipment. This photo below shows the frozen wall pipes installed before the connecting system is installed. This shows why freezing actively used road sections could be problematic. TEPCO has not specifically addressed this issue to confirm the status of road sections related to the frozen wall.

 In Asahi Shumbun’s article on the lack of total isolation by the frozen wall they talked to various experts, some questioned the lack of better water control further uphill. Shigeaki Tsunoyama from University of Aizu in Fukushima thought there should be a concrete wall uphill to better control water migration. We suggested something like this in our wide area bypass plan submitted to IRID. While costly, it may have provided better control of ground water through the plant.

Lowering the groundwater flow through the reactor blocks down to 50 tons per day is still an improvement. What is concerning is that this degree of release could allow highly radioactive water to leak out of the reactor block area. This may have been why the NRA was so concerned with the actual performance of the frozen wall.

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