subterranean ice ring to stop radioactive water in japan subterranean ice ring to stop radioactive water in japan
sep 01, 2013

subterranean ice ring to stop radioactive water in japan

japan considers subterranean ice ring to contain radioactive water, as radioactive waste leaks into the water surrounding the fukushima power plant; critics dismiss the plan as a fantastical and expensive solution. 

image courtesy game of thrones-beyond the wall 



in a move of game of thrones-proportions, the japanese government has ordered that a subterranean ice ring be considered a possible solution to radioactive contamination of the water surrounding the compromised fukushima nuclear power plant. TEPCO, the operator of the doomed plant, faces an unprecedented challenge as a quarter of a million tons of radioactive water is already stored at fukushima and the crippled reactor buildings remain ill-equipped to to stop the seepage of waste into the groundwater. following an incident earlier this month wherein 79,000 gallons leaked out of the contaminated plant, the seemingly fantastical subterranean ice ring has been reframed as a quick, stop-gap real design solution. 



the proposed ice wall would total a length of 1.4 kilometres and, if completed, is penned to be the world’s longest continuous stretch of artificially frozen earth. according to one of the possible contractors, the idea of hydrodynamic barriers and artificial ground freezing has been used for almost 150 years and was first employed in the coal mining valleys of south wales. the basic concept is that in-situ pore water acts as a bonding agent and fuses soil and rock particles into a veritable wall, creating a massive barrier that is twice as strong as concrete and almost entirely impermeable. the super cooling fluid used in the process is comprised of a salt water mixture at around 30 degrees centigrade.




IAEA experts examine recovery work on the fukushima daiichii nuclear power station earlier this year

image ©  greg webb / IAEA
image courtesy of IAEA image bank  



the large scale use of this method as an environmental remediation technique is valid; however, critics cite both the incredible expense and maintenance of such  procedure. the ice wall could take tens of billions of yen to build and nearly 1 billion yen (10 million USD) a year to maintain. many see the possible subterranean ice ring as a temporary measure while a traditional steel-and-concrete design is erected. while the ice barrier’s benefits lie in a quick build-time and could be highly effective in more heavily contaminated areas, the system requires a constant supply of energy to upkeep as well and has yet to be tested at the scale required in fukushima daiichi. kaijima corporation, the company that built the fukushima plant is nonetheless completing a feasibility study that projects a completion date by 2015. after one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents, the stuff of fantasy and science fiction may be the most possible solution.




IAEA experts examine recovery work on the fukushima daiichii nuclear power station earlier this year

image ©  greg webb / IAEA
image courtesy of IAEA image bank  



this reuters infographic paints a clear picture of how the ice wall will work 



  • What could go wrong?

    JJ says:
  • I still don’t understand why we ever should build a nuclear plant just next to an ocean. Could we’ve prevented this if we thought about it a bit longer…?

    Michiel says:
  • A nuclear reactor needs a cooling system, and the water in the ocean is good and cheap.

    Me says:

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