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Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant struggling to build ice wall to plug leak

Published on Jun 17, 2014 4:58 PM
 
This handout picture taken and released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) on June 2, 2014, shows an excavator drilling in the ground at Tepco's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Okuma in Fukushima prefecture. Tepco said on June 17 that it was having trouble with the early stages of an ice wall being built under broken reactors to contain radioactive water. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - The operator of Japan's battered Fukushima nuclear power plant said Tuesday it was having trouble with the early stages of an ice wall being built under broken reactors to contain radioactive water.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has begun digging the trenches for a huge network of pipes pipes under the plant through which it intends to pass refrigerant. This will freeze the soil and form a physical barrier that is intended to prevent clean groundwater flowing down mountainsides from mixing with contaminated water underneath the leaking reactors.

Tepco said on Tuesday a smaller, inner ice wall whose pipes it sank earlier to contain the already-contaminated water was proving difficult. "We have yet to form the ice stopper because we can't make the temperature low enough to freeze water," a Tepco spokesman said. "We are behind schedule but have already taken additional measures, including putting in more pipes, so that we can remove contaminated water from the trench starting next month."

The coolant being used in the operation is an aqueous solution of calcium chloride, which is cooled to minus 30 deg C.

 
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