Utah company being considered to stop radioactive leak at Japanese nuclear plant

By Keith McCord, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Aug. 21, 2014, 10:00 p.m. MDT

 Jim Cross, president of Cross Marines Projects of American Fork, draws how his product would contain the radiation leaking from a nuclear plant in Japan, on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. The plant was heavily damaged by an earthquake in March 2011.

Jim Cross, president of Cross Marines Projects of American Fork, draws how his product would contain the radiation leaking from a nuclear plant in Japan, on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. The plant was heavily damaged by an earthquake in March 2011.

(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.”

Email: kmccord@deseretnews.com

1. one vote
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

Don't need another Godzilla.

2. Baron Scarpia
Logan, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

I'm grateful that entrepreneurs are working to resolve this ongoing nuclear disaster. I wish this company success and hope they make millions in the process, paid for by the Japanese government and citizens.

But I also hope that Americans recognize the risks of nuclear power and how disasters have to be bought and paid for -- either by taxpayers or ratepayers. Nuclear is NOT cheap, clean energy.

All too often, I hear conservatives promote nuclear power -- even in Utah where water necessary for nuclear is so scarce -- and proclaim a Fukushima-style event as "unlikely" here.

Meanwhile, a new Dept. of Energy report says that wind power -- booming across the country (but not here) -- is at the lowest price ever, and it will continue to fall as local manufacturing economies of scale and technology advance. Solar is also growing as prices drop, but Utah may face "solar fees" to curb its growth because the utility monopoly worries home solar is hurting its coal interests.

Renewable energy is clean and price stable. And wind and solar spills cost nothing for clean up.

3. cjb
Bountiful, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

I have read articles that talk about nuclear power plants that don't produce much waste, because they turn what would have been waste into energy. Going forward wouldn't the real solution be to mandate that those type of power plants be used?

4. KJR
Alpine, UT,
Aug. 26, 2014

I shake my head when I read articles like this. Yes,radiation has special hazards and it's good that there is technology to help stop the leak, but it appears that most of the people that write these articles have no notion of what an isotope, half-life, Becquerel or Sievert is. Despite its peculiar dangers, you always know where radioactive isotopes are and what's happening to them. We can detect traces of these isotopes (Iodine and Cesium) at incredibly low levels. The detected radiation in the Fukushima leakage is a tiny fraction of that which is allowed in drinking water (in Bequerels/m3) and much lower than many naturally occurring background radiation sources (such as those granite counter-tops in my kitchen). Also some articles (not this one) speak of "radioactive water" and it's pretty clear from the wording that the writer didn't understand that the water itself is not radioactive, but is carrying traces of isotopes. Actually, the drifting refuse from the quake is much more hazardous but doesn't get any press. There's a fine line between willful ignorance and intent to deceive to promote a self-proclaimed "righteous" agenda.