Given that there is no quick fix for the Japanese nuclear leak, scientists are literally hanging their hopes on diaper- and superglue-like materials.
Engineers pinned their hopes on chemicals, sawdust and shredded newspaper to stop highly radioactive water pouring into the ocean from Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant Sunday as officials said it will take several months to bring the crisis under control, the first time they have provided a timetable.
Concrete already failed to stop the tainted water spewing from a crack in a maintenance pit, and the new mixture did not appear to be working either, but engineers said they were not abandoning it.
Engineers tried to seal the crack with concrete Saturday, but that effort failed.
So on Sunday they went farther up the system and injected sawdust, three garbage bags of shredded newspaper and a polymer — similar to one used to absorb liquid in diapers — that can expand to 50 times its normal size when combined with water.
The polymer mix in the passageway leading to the pit had not stopped the leak by Sunday night, but it also had not leaked out of the crack along with the water, so engineers were stirring it in an attempt to get it to expand. They expected to know by Monday morning if it would work.
And CNN reports:
Spraying was also set to continue this weekend of an experimental new material to lock in radioactive material in and around the nuclear complex so that it doesn’t seep further into the air, water or ground.
Crews have dispersed about 2,000 liters (more than 500 gallons) of synthetic resin in a 500-square-meter locale, according to Tokyo Electric. The aim is to hold the released radioactivity on the ground, so it can’t interfere with the restoration of the cooling systems aimed at preventing the overheating of nuclear fuel rods in reactors and spent fuel pools at the plant.
“You spray it to hold down the loose contamination, and it acts like a super glue,” said Nolan Hertel, a radiation engineering expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “You don’t want radioactive materials that are loose to get away.”
The fact that scientists are resorting to such measures proves that we are in a sticky and … ahem … crappy situation, and that normal measures to reduce radiation are not working all that well.