National Geographic : 2014 Mar
NEXT Groundwater Hillside Ocean Storage tanks THE PROBLEM THE PROPOSED SOLUTION Reactor Turbine Ice wall seals in contamination. Pumps divert uncontaminated groundwater to the sea. Contamination (August 2013 leak) photo: digitalglobe/scapeware3d/ getty images. graphic: lawson parker, ngm staff. source: tepco A New Nuclear Freeze on august 19, 2013, a huge leak of contami- nated water—about 80,000 gallons—was discovered at Japan’s earthquake-ravaged fukushima daiichi power plant. groundwater seeps continue. now an underground ice wall is being proposed to contain them. it will work like this: coolant is pumped at - 20of to -40of through pipes reaching a hundred feet deep to freeze any water in the soil. the pipes also make the soil’s air pockets so cold that any future liquid trying to pass will freeze too. the ice wall would help keep clean ground- water from coming into the plant and water carrying radioactive particles from getting to the ocean. water moves through soil about four inches a day, says engineer ed yarmak, who designed an ice wall for a facility in tennessee. it’s not perfect, he adds, “but it’s the barrier with the best chance of working.” —Johnna Rizzo an ice wall to contain the fukushima daiichi nuclear plant’s groundwater is planned for 2015. PROPOSED ICE WALL Reported leak site Storage tanks for contaminated reactor cooling water Groundwater pipes and wells Undamaged nuclear reactors DAMAGED REACTORS Turbines the ice wall’s coolant pipes are placed three feet apart and reach a hundred feet deep.