Skeptics of the plan to build a massive ice wall around Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility didn’t have to wait particularly long for their first “I told you so.”
TEPCO, the nominal operator of the battered plant, announced Tuesday that while construction on the network of pipes, pumps, and compressors has begun on what is intended to be a huge ice barrier to prevent mountain runoff from mixing with radioactive water inside the facility, attempts to form a smaller ice wall around already-contaminated water are failing.
"We have yet to form the ice stopper because we can't make the temperature low enough to freeze water," a TEPCO spokesman said.
The project is already behind schedule and over budget, and engineers are adding more cooling pipes in hopes they can complete this first small step next month.
While the ground freezing procedure has been used to construct tunnels near waterways, it has never been used for nuclear cleanup and has never been done on such a massive scale. Estimates of the project’s success can best be termed “hopeful.”