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How Fukushima’s underground ice wall struggles to keep nuclear radiation at bay


Editor’s note: This story originally ran on March 4, 2018, and we’re reposting it for the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster to give readers a sense of the technology being employed to fix this enormous problem, which continues today. To learn more about the ongoing cleanup efforts, read Japan’s latest report, issued to the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this month.

The intricate network of small metal pipes, capped off by six-foot-high metal scaffolding, shouldn’t stand out amid the numerous pieces of industrial equipment littered throughout the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant . After all, it’s a power plant.

I take a closer look, and notice spheres of ice perched upon the smaller pipes, which line the center of the structure. The facility sits at the water’s edge, and there’s a brisk breeze blowing through.

But not that brisk.

It turns out, coolant is running through the pipes, freezing the soil below and creating an impermeable ice wall that’s nearly 100 feet deep and a mile long, encircling the reactors.

It’s like a smaller-scale subterranean version of the Wall in Game of Thrones , but instead of keeping out White Walkers and wights, this line of defense keeps in a […]

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