Tepco unlikely to complete ice wall by March


Tokyo Electric Power Co. will probably not meet its target of completing by the end of March the first section of frozen soil shields to curb the buildup of radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Construction is being delayed by two weeks to one month after two deadly accidents at Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants last month forced the company to suspend work for safety checks, Tepco officials said Monday.

The shields are intended to block groundwater from the nearby mountains from flowing into the reactor building basements and mixing with water that has become highly radioactive after being used to cool the overheating reactors.

Tepco began the construction work last June.

The volume of contaminated water has been increasing by several hundred tons a day due partly to the inflow of groundwater.

Even after the construction is completed, Tepco will need approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority to start circulating refrigerant to freeze the surrounding soil. The NRA is concerned that the shields may change the flow of groundwater and cause the ground to sink, which could allow contaminated water to flow out of the reactor buildings.