Japan's Fukushima ice wall ready to go into service

fukushima ice wall
Years after a major accident at its Fukushima nuclear power plant, Japan is still trying to contain the radioactive waste that is spilling into the nearby waterways. The country’s latest strategy to deal with this ongoing contamination is an elaborate refrigeration system that will create a frozen underground ice wall to seal in the radioactive waste. After years of construction, Japanese utility TEPCO is ready to activate the first stage of this ice wall project.

The ice wall is designed to contain radioactive water that is leaking from cracks in the basement of the reactor units. This water seeps into the groundwater, traveling far beyond the power plant’s site. The problem is so severe that nearby farmers have been using polyester soil to avoid using the contaminated water. Japan is aware of the seriousness of this contamination and has struggled in its attempts to contain the leaking radiation. Earlier this year, the country tried unsuccessfully to contain the radioactive waste by using robots to remove melted fuel rods that are the source of much of this radiation. This earlier plan failed when the robots sent to retrieve the rods died in transit when their wiring malfunctioned due to the high levels of radioactivity in the water.

To build the ice wall, Japan has been installing refrigeration pipes that extend 30 feet underground. These buried tubes will be used to freeze the soil and create a 1.5-km wall around the four reactors and turbine buildings. Construction of the ice wall began in 2014 and is nearing completion, with 95 percent of the wall ready to be activated. The remaining 5 percent will be approved after the performance of the wall is assessed following activation of this first stage.

If it works as expected, ground water inflow will be reduced by 50 percent. The refrigeration system is projected to cost approximately 35 billion yen (US$312 million) when it is finally completed.

This isn’t the first time an ice wall has been used to contain the movement of groundwater. The technique is commonly used in mining and other excavation projects but on a much smaller scale. Japan’s ice wall will be the largest to date and has never been tested at this level. How effective it will be remains to be seen. “Its effect is still unknown because the expected outcome is based on simulations,” said TEPCO accident response official Toshihiro Imai.


Ford’s prototype Quiet Kennel uses noise-canceling tech to keep dogs stress-free

Ford is ending 2018 by venturing into the doghouse market. The company's European division has built a kennel equipped with active noise-canceling technology and soundproof walls that help dogs sleep through fireworks.

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Smart Home

The Echo Wall Clock can help you keep track of multiple Alexa timers

Amazon just released the Echo Wall Clock that was announced at its September new hardware device event in Seattle. The Echo Wall Clock is an analog clock that also indicates the minutes remaining on one or more Alexa timers.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.