The Guardian, Dec. 3, 2013: Tepco’s latest plan to stem the flow of radioactive groundwater into the ocean is to solidify the soil around the site to form an impermeable “icewall”. [...] Lake Barrett, the US consultant brought in by Tepco, is sceptical of the plan. “I don’t think it’ll make that big a difference. It’s several hundred million dollars, and some of that might be better spent on an integrated water plan,” he says. Even if the ice wall works, it could cause fresh problems. Groundwater flowing out to the ocean keeps seawater from seeping inland at Fukushima. Block that flow, or divert it, and saltwater is sure to encroach. Normally, this would not be a problem. But the soil around Fukushima is laden with radioactive caesium. The substance binds to clay in freshwater conditions, but crucially is released again by saltwater. “If you stop the fresh water flowing out, that would very likely cause the caesium in the ground to be released. You then have a pulse, of what is currently in some way safely buried, going back into the ocean,” says Buesseler. “It is certainly something they should think about.”
Associated Press, Dec. 3, 2013: Officials initially said they were counting on the ice wall, which is currently undergoing a feasibility study, but now say there is no guarantee of its success.
See also: AP: Experts warn about ground sinking at Fukushima plant -- Tepco Adviser: Reactor building structures likely degraded; "Containment degradation" concerns back in 2011
Interview with nuclear policy expert Mycle Schneider, Radio France Int’l, Dec. 5, 2013: Two years and nine months after the disaster started, we’re in a situation where the conditions on site are actually getting worse and worse. [...] The key problem is that the state of the infrastructure onsite — this means the buildings, it means the tank farm where there’s now 1,000 tanks that contain highly radioactive water, it’s a situation of pools that contain highly radioactive spent fuel [...] — the overall infrastructure deteriorates. And the big problem is we are here in seawater atmosphere, so it’s charged in salt, and this is leading to very fast corrosion, it leads to problem with deterioration of concrete, etc,. etc..
Full broadcast available here
Published: December 5th, 2013 at 2:01 pm ET