The Fukushima nuclear plant's operator on Tuesday (Aug 22) started freezing the last section of a US$320 million (S$435 million) ice wall created to cut down on vast amounts of contaminated water at the site of the worst atomic accident in a generation.
The 7-meter section west of damaged reactor buildings is expected to take months to freeze-longer than the time needed for other parts-because of the fast-flowing groundwater there, TEPCO said.
Of the 1.5-kilometer ice wall, some seven meters stretching in the mountain side remain unfrozen. It is expected to take at least two months before effects of the work come out, TEPCO reported.
Even now, with the ice wall nearly complete, about 140 tonnes of underground water flows into the plant daily, forcing the company to pump it out and store it in on-site tanks.
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Three TEPCO workers opened 11 valves to let coolant of minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) circulate in pipes surrounding the building, and has begun freezing of remaining "ice wall" section.
But some experts have cast doubt on the ice wall, and the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority said it has not yet done an independent analysis.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea natural disaster off Japan's northeastern coast sparked a massive tsunami that destroyed entire towns and villages along the Pacific shore, leaving almost 18,500 people dead or missing.
At one point, the nuclear complex was producing 400 tons of contaminated groundwater on a daily basis, and efforts to store and decontaminate the water could not keep pace.
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