TEPCO’s ice wall operation not meeting expectations

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Fukushima Daiichi Ice Wall Operation

In September 2013, Tokyo Electric announced that it planned to drill freeze wells at three feet intervals to create an ‘ice wall’ nearly a mile long  at the Unit 2 and Unit 3 reactors, where an estimated 11,000 tons of contaminated wastewater is believed to have collected, in an attempt to stem contaminated water from flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

At the time experts were not confident that the ice wall plan would be successful, and in fact were concerned that even if the ice wall was constructed it would only drive the wastewater even deeper underground, but TEPCO pushed forward with the $320 million project anyway.

In April, workers had completed constructing the equipment for the ice wall and began pumping calcium chloride cooled to -22 Fahrenheit into the wells near the Unit 2 reactor.

TEPCO officials announced today that they have found that the ice wall plans are not progressing according to plan.

“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 officials say that the operations are being hindered by debris and objects in the tunnels and the continual spread of wastewater through the site.  They believe that the operation may be salvaged if they can control the underground water currents and add more wells to increase the amount of coolant that is injected.

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4 Comments

  1. “. . . if the ice wall was constructed it would only drive the wastewater even deeper underground . . .” Wouldn’t they bury perforated drain pipe outside the Ice walls to carry the ground water around the plant?

  2. TEPCO ice wall is engineering solution to freeze water. Water boiled makes steam. Water frozen makes ice. TEPCO failed to make steam when three reactor cores melted down spreading radioactivity into the water. TEPCO failed to freeze water to create wall to contain radioactive water from flowing a few hundred yards to the ocean. Two strikes. Whats next?

    1. Not making steam means that the cores have cooled. While they were hot they produced too much steam, the source of most of the contamination spread across Fukushima Prefecture.

      Not making any ice implies that there might be a problem in that system cooling the brine to -22F. (Calcium chloride is a solid at room temperature.)

  3. Well the amount of “cold”, i.e. the caloric energy needed should have been calculable from a high-school textbook I should think. This is ineptitude squared. However “… drive the wastewater even deeper underground …” – well where else? It can only: a) overflow the ice wall, because the water starts accumulating further and thus rises or b) it can go underground (which would not be that bad, as it won’t resurface so easily and thus only after again some radioactive decay has taken place making the radioactive load smaller or c) it can flow around the wall to the left or right, all other things being equal. So the wall was nothing but a “tank wall” – still the excess water would simultaneously have to be pumped for that ice wall to make long-term sense?!

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