UK & World News
Fukushima: Japan Builds Ice Wall To Stop Leaks
Japan is to build an underground ice wall to try to prevent radioactive water leaking from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power station.
The plant has been leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated water into the sea since the complex was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
And in recent weeks, the Dai-ichi plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, (Tepco) has failed to contain several leaks from tanks storing tainted water.
The ice wall project will cost an estimated £301m, and its announcement is being seen as an attempt to show that the nuclear accident will not be a safety concern when, on Saturday, the International Olympic Committee chooses between Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid as the host of the 2020 Olympics.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: "Instead of leaving this up to Tepco, the government will step forward and take charge.
"The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water but also the entire decommissioning of the plant."
The government plans to spend £205m on the ice wall and £96m on upgraded water treatment units to remove radioactive elements, according to energy agency official Tatsuya Shinkawa.
The ice wall would freeze the ground to a depth of up to 30 metres (100ft) through an electrical system of thin pipes carrying a coolant as cold as minus 40 degrees Celsius.
That would block contaminated water from escaping the facility's immediate surroundings, as well as keep underground water from entering the reactor and turbine buildings, where much of the radioactive water has collected.
The project is being tested for feasibility by Japanese construction giant Kajima Corp and is set for completion in March 2015.
Some experts are still sceptical about the technology and say the running costs would be a huge burden.