This Sunday, the 6th season of Game of Thrones premiers on HBO. Eight million viewers tuned in to watch the premier of Season 5, and considering that there is yet no book to give away what the latest season has in store for us, last season’s record breaking total will likely be eclipsed. What will happen now that in the North the White Walkers have grown their army to the tens of thousands? Will they be able to breach The Wall – the massive ice barrier protecting the lands of men?
With significantly less fanfare, another event recently took place in the real world that will have a much greater impact. Replace “the North” with “Fukushima” and “White Walkers” with “radioactive water.” The big ice wall thing? It’s a part of both stories.
There is growing evidence pointing to radioactive material, and thus radiation, from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan reaching the West Coast of the United States – and even though the disastrous event is years old, radiation continues to come. Rain water around the facility turns to ground water which seeps into the broken plant at the astounding rate of 400 tons per day – or nearly 106,000 gallons – most of which leaks out into the sea. And until the plant is completely cleaned up – something that could take decades – without a solution, radiation will continue to pour into the ocean and make its way to U.S. shores.
There does seem to be a solution, however, and the first part was turned on earlier this month. The key is to stop the water from getting into the plant in the first place. Like The Wall from Game of Thrones, a barrier must be constructed. Instead of keeping out White Walkers, this barrier will keep water from flowing into the contaminated nuclear plant, picking up radioactive material, and flowing out to sea. The problem is that any such barrier would have to accommodate existing pipes and other infrastructure that already go to the plant, creating weak points for water to get through. Additionally, another earthquake, or even just the test of time, would cause it to crack, starting the problem all over again. So engineers are taking a page out of G.R.R. Martin’s world and constructing an impenetrable wall of ice.
They start by sinking pipes around the entire plant at regular intervals that go down to bedrock. Then they pump super-cooled liquid through, which slowly freezes the soil surrounding them. This allows them to create a wall that, if breached, can simply be refrozen again. Okay, so this wall is underground and isn’t as impressive to look at as Martin’s version, but it should prove to be equally as effective. It better be – the project to encompass the entire plant is slated to cost a cool (pun intended) $312 million.
Take that White Walkers! I mean radiation.
Image sources: HBO, Tepco