TOKYO (AP) — Experts on Friday expressed skepticism about a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, a development that could delay the start of construction on the project.
The experts and Japanese nuclear regulatory officials said during a meeting in Tokyo that they weren't convinced the project can resolve a serious contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The frozen wall is a 32 billion yen ($320 million) government-funded project to surround the plant's four crippled reactors and their turbine buildings with an underground ice wall to block groundwater from flowing into the buildings' basements and mixing with highly radioactive water leaks from the melted cores.
Government officials say a feasibility test at the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., proved successful and that they hope to start construction in June, though the project could be delayed because of the experts' concerns.
Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner with Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, said the hydrological impact of a frozen wall to the area was unclear.
"We need to know if a frozen wall is really effective, and more importantly, we need to know whether a frozen wall may cause any trouble," Fuketa said.
International experts have raised similar concerns.
Dale Klein, a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman who now heads a supervisory panel for TEPCO, said he was not convinced the frozen wall is the best option and is worth the high cost. He also suggested that the government and TEPCO review the plan to balance risk and benefit and see whether they should spend the money elsewhere.