Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
AMERICAN FORK — More than three years ago, a powerful earthquake struck the coast of Japan.
It caused widespread damage and knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, causing radioactive leaks.
The plant remains offline, and contaminated water from the facility is still leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
Trying to stop the leaks has certainly been a challenge. A family-owned company in American Fork has proposed a solution, and the Japanese government is listening.
"It's not being contained, and it's migrating through the soil and out into the Pacific Ocean,” explained Jim Cross, president of Cross Marine Projects of American Fork.
Approximately 72,000 gallons of radioactive water continues to leak from the plant into the ocean every day.
Companies from around the world have proposed various solutions to contain the flow, including Cross Marine.
But the Japanese government and the power company there chose a local company that wanted to test a vertical ice barrier or ice wall between the plant and the Pacific. It's not working.
“And that testing has gone forward, and they're having a great deal of trouble freezing any of this,” Cross said. “The test area, they have not been able to freeze it.”
So a few weeks ago, Japanese government leaders reached out to Cross again and wanted more specifics of his plan.
“So as I saw the problem here with the saturation and migration, I thought, 'OK, it's very similar to things we've done. We just have to be a little more careful,'" Cross said.
For years, Cross Marine has conducted exploration and salvage operations around the world. The company has a process using a specially composed injected sealing material that can patch cracks in earthen dams.
At the Fukushima plant, Cross is proposing to inject the hydrogels that will harden to form another barrier wall.
“As we understand right now, it would be about a mile and a half in length. The wall would be about 10- (to) 12-feet wide and would extend down to the denser geologic material at about 100 feet,” Cross said.
It's a technology Cross has used for years, and he says it's more durable than an ice barrier.
“Anytime there’s an earthquake in the future or power outage, this all melts,” he said. “The wall that we would put in with the hydrogels, that will last for 100 years at least.”
The cost of the ice wall is around $450 million. Cross said the technology he is proposing costs one-quarter of that.
The area of Japan affected by the leaks will stay contaminated by radioactivity for years, but Cross says the important thing is just being able to offer help to reduce any further environmental damage.
“Whether they simply adapt the technology and use it themselves, or whether they call us in to provide this service is immaterial,” Cross said. “If it works and it's successful, that will be reward enough for Cross Marine.”
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