Radioactive water issue cannot be resolved by ice wall project alone

From today’s Yomiuri Shimbun

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has launched the construction of ice walls, a project aimed at curbing the buildup of radioactive water at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Halting the increase of contaminated water is the major task for the moment to end the crisis at the plant. Therefore, the project must be steadily promoted.

Pipes to circulate liquid coolants will be buried over a 1.5-kilometer perimeter around the plant’s Nos. 1 to 4 reactor buildings, thereby freezing the soil to a depth of 30 meters below ground to construct ice walls. The government and TEPCO expect the envisaged ice walls to help prevent groundwater from flowing into the reactor buildings, which has caused an increase of contaminated water at the plant.

Many essential pipes and electrical cables are installed underground around the reactor buildings. If such equipment is accidentally damaged, it could impair the cooling functions of the reactors.

Given the high radiation levels at the construction site, it is necessary to minimize workers’ radiation exposure. Due care must be taken in carrying out the work.

Installation will cost ¥32 billion. The government will bear the cost as a research and development project. Power consumption equivalent to that of 13,000 ordinary households, running more than ¥1 billion annually in simple calculation, will be needed to keep the underground walls frozen.

Such massive spending aside, the question is whether the ice walls will ensure that groundwater will not flow into the reactor buildings.

Ice walls have been used as a temporary method of halting the flow of groundwater when tunnels are constructed. The installation of ice walls on the currently planned scale is unprecedented in Japan.

Fears of subsidence

There are fears that if the soil is not frozen evenly, it could cause subsidence. Experts have warned that if the ice walls melt due to problems with cooling functions, there could be a widespread danger of radioactive water flowing outside the reactor buildings.

There is no reason to place overly high expectations on the ice walls.

Considering the fact that there has been constant trouble with the countermeasures taken so far to deal with radioactive water, it is essential to carry out several measures in parallel.

The amount of contaminated water has increased by 300-400 tons a day. Storage tanks built on the plant’s premises already number about 900, leaving no choice but to assign many workers to maintenance and surveillance duties.

This hinders work to repair the crippled reactors, which must be given top priority to end the crisis at the plant. This must be taken seriously.

Sooner or later, there will be no more sites available for the construction of storage tanks at the plant.

It is vital to reduce the amount of rainwater infiltrating the soil as one of the countermeasures. The decision was made to pave the plant’s site, but little progress has been made due to a delay in land leveling.

Police drama around my house

I just got home from Hachioji and there was a big commotion around my house. There were three police cars with blinking red lights, and an ambulance and police walking around talking to people.

I asked a neighbor what happened and she said nothing really. That car bumped a bicycle ridden by a girl.

There were no injuries And no damage to the bicycle or car. But the police have to check it all out.

My guess is that if I phoned an incident like that into the St. Louis police they would respond with, “So exactly why are you calling us again?”

Mountain Day created as newest official public holiday

We were, after all, in dire need of more national holidays.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the date selected is the anniversary of the passing of both my father, and of Hao who died 3 years later on the same date.

From the Japan Times:

The Diet on Friday established Mountain Day as a public holiday starting in 2016, raising the annual tally to 16 as the government looks for ways to get the nation’s famously hard-working populace out of the office.

Legislation to observe the new holiday every Aug. 11 was enacted with support from both the ruling camp and the opposition.

It came after the Japanese Alpine Club and other mountain-related groups lobbied for the bill, saying that Japan — where Shinto’s animistic beliefs have shaped the culture — needs to celebrate its peaks.

At the other end of the spectrum, Marine Day, sometimes translated as Ocean Day, is observed on the third Monday of July.

The legislation for Mountain Day states that it is designed to share “opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains.”

A large chunk of Japan’s land is mountainous, and walking or trekking is a popular pastime, particularly among seniors.

The mountains also bless Japan with excellent skiing throughout the winter, with foreign visitors raving about the quality of the snow.

Once Mountain Day takes effect in two years, Japan will have 16 official holidays, the most among the Group of Eight major powers, and double the number observed in Britain.

And, unlike Britain, where many of the days off are known only as “bank holidays,” each of Japan’s holidays celebrate something specific. They include Children’s Day, Coming of Age Day, Constitution Day and National Foundation Day.

The number of holidays has grown steadily in recent decades.

This is at least in part an effort to tame the tendency, particularly prevalent among office workers, to put in long hours and not take time off, with observers saying the reluctance is borne of an unwillingness to burden colleagues with extra work. Japan also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

While Europeans tend to take long summer vacations, in which they will use up two or more weeks of their annual leave at once, many Japanese limit their time away to extended weekends.