Japan to fund ice wall to contain reactor leaks

TOKYO — The Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will spend $470 million on a subterranean ice wall and other steps in a desperate bid to stop leaks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after repeated failures by the plant’s operator.

The decision is widely seen as an attempt to show that the nuclear accident won’t be a safety concern just days before the International Olympic Committee chooses among Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid as the host of the 2020 Olympics.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated underground water into the sea since shortly after a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged the complex. Several leaks from tanks storing radioactive water in recent weeks have heightened the sense of crisis that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., isn’t able to contain the problem.

“Instead of leaving this up to TEPCO, the government will step forward and take charge,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after adopting the outline. “The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water but also the entire decommissioning of the plant.”

The government plans to spend an estimated 470 million through the end of March 2015 on two projects — $320 million on the ice wall and $150 million on an upgraded water treatment unit that is supposed to remove all radioactive elements except water-soluble tritium — according to energy agency official Tatsuya Shinkawa.

The government, however, is not paying for urgently needed water tanks and other equipment that TEPCO is using to contain leaks. Shinkawa said the funding is limited to “technologically challenging projects” but the government is open to additional help when needed.

The ice wall would freeze the ground to a depth of up to 100 feet through a system of pipes carrying a coolant as cold as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That would block contaminated water from escaping from the facility’s immediate surroundings, as well as keep underground water from entering the reactor and turbine buildings, where much of the radioactive water has collected.

The project, which TEPCO and the government proposed in May, is being tested for feasibility by Japanese construction giant Kajima Corp. and is set for completion by March 2015.

Similar methods have been used to block water from parts of tunnels and subways, but building a 0.9-mile wall that surrounds four reactor buildings and their related facilities is unprecedented.

More in Local News

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Most Read