TEPCO begins work on underground ice wall at Fukushima Daiichi

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Tokyo Electric workers are to begin work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to create underground frozen walls at the Unit 2 and Unit 3 turbine buildings on Wednesday.  The utility is also digging wells across the compound to determine whether or not water is leaking directly from the reactor buildings.

Enormous amounts of coolant water is injected around the clock to prevent the melted nuclear fuel from overheating is leaking from the damaged reactor containment vessels and mixing with groundwater in the reactor buildings, turbine buildings, and various underground tunnels, before seeping into the ground and reaching the sea.

The utility hopes that the ice walls will prevent highly radioactive wastewater from flowing into the ocean.

Workers will dig vertical holes which will house pipes to inject liquid coolant to create frozen walls to block the water.  They will have to contend with cables and other obstructions in the tunnels which may hinder the work.

Workers are unable to access the underground tunnels due to the high radiation levels and the contaminated water, and will be forced to perform their work using remote-controlled cameras.

According to the schedule provided by TEPCO, workers are scheduled to finish installing the pipes by mid to late March.

Many outside experts have expressed skepticism as to whether or not the project will offer any real benefit, arguing that the technique has only ever been used on a small scale.  There is even concern that the ice wall will drive the contaminated water even deeper underground.

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