Japan is set to construct a nearly mile-long ice wall around the Fukushima nuclear plant in an attempt to stop the continuing leak of radioactive water. The plan was first proposed in May, and the Associated Press reports that it's now been adopted. The construction will place a series of thin pipes carrying coolant as cold as negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the ground, which will freeze the earth down to nearly 100 feet beneath the surface. That should both prevent water from entering the nuclear plant's reactor and turbines, and prevent contaminated water from escaping the plant and contaminating the water supply.
"The world is watching."
Contaminated groundwater was revealed to be leaking from the plant in July, over two years after an earthquake damaged it. The leaks were reported to be spilling 300 tons of radioactive water into the ocean each day, prompting officials to eventually call the issue an emergency. "The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water but also the entire decommissioning of the plant," Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said after adopting the plan, according to the AP.
While the radioactive water leak may seem to be an issue worth dealing with on its own merits, the AP suggests that the move is being ordered to give Japan an edge in the coming selection for an Olympic host city. Alongside Istanbul and Madrid, Tokyo is one of the final names on the list to host the 2020 Olympic Games, and a decision is set to be made soon. The ice wall could help to prove that Japan is serious about safety.
Japan is set to spend about $320 million on the ice wall, though the government won't be covering the bill in full for TEPCO, which operates the plant. The AP reports that TEPCO will still have to foot the cost of water tanks to help mitigate the leaks further — and they could be necessary given the ice wall's distant completion date of March 2015.