Canadian Consulting Engineer

A thousand tanks holding contaminated water at Fukushima

September 14, 2016

A recent New York Times article described the ongoing struggles to contain the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station in Japan.

After the tsunami and explosions destroyed several reactors at the ocean-front plant in March 2011, TEPCO, the plant’s owner, has been trying to cope with a crisis of groundwater seeping into the plant and becoming contaminated.

The company is being criticized for taking a high-tech approach to containing the water:  creating an impermeable ice wall 30 metres deep and about 1.5 kilometres long.

Meanwhile Tepco is constructing above-ground tanks as fast as it can to contain the contaminated water. So far it has built approximately 1,000 tanks, 95 feet high and covering almost every available stretch of ground. They are holding 800,000 tons of radioactive water to prevent it seeping into the Pacific Ocean.

Martin Fackler, the author of the NYT article,  explains: ” Either the natural disasters themselves, or the explosive meltdowns of three of the plant’s six reactors that followed, are believed to have cracked the buildings’ basements, allowing groundwater to pour in. Nearly 40,000 gallons of water a day keep flooding into the buildings.”

“Once inside,” he writes, “the water becomes highly radioactive, impeding efforts to eventually dismantle the plant. During the accident, the uranium fuel grew so hot that some of it is believed to have melted through the reactor’s steel floors and possibly into the basement underneath, though no one knows exactly where it lies. The continual flood of radioactive water has prevented engineers from searching for the fuel.”

Five robots that have been sent into the plant’s bowels have become jammed by debris or because of high radiation levels have failed to return.

About 7,000 workers are employed in the cleanup.

To read the article, published August 29 by the New York Times, click here.


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