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Ice wall at Fukushima nuclear plant revealed for first time

A Natural Resources and Energy Agency official explains the state of the ice wall meant to surround the reactor buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, on Nov, 21, 2016. (Pool photo)

FUKUSHIMA -- The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry on Nov. 21 showed the media for the first time the visual inspections conducted on the condition of the subterranean ice wall around the nuclear reactors at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant to block groundwater from flowing into the plant buildings.

The ice wall project calls for freezing the soil around the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings that stretches some 1.5 kilometers to a depth of about 30 meters to create a solid barrier by hammering in equidistant cooling pipes and circulating coolant chilled to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

The industry ministry on Nov. 21 dug a part of the ice wall to approximately 1.2 meters in depth on the mountain side of the No. 4 reactor building. The soil temperature around the cooling pipes 40 centimeters deep was about minus 10.3 degrees, while an area of 1.5 meters in radius around the cooling pipes was frozen at a depth of 1.2 meters.

While plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. claims that the ice wall could reduce the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings from some 400 metric tons a day to 100 tons or less, the Nuclear Regulation Authority cast doubt on the project during an August meeting, with a member saying that the plan was a failure.

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