Mitigating contamination in Fukushima

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Civil engineer Joe Sopko ('80, '83, '90) is helping contain groundwater at damaged nuclear plant

Oct. 1, 2014

Spartan Engineer Joe Sopko has been involved in ground freezing projects throughout the world.

A civil engineer who Joe Sopko is consulting on an underground frozen wall to be constructed at the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan.earned three degrees from Michigan State University, he is currently engaged as a consultant for an underground frozen wall being constructed at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. That plant was severely damaged by the tsunami from the M9.0 Tohoku earthquake in 2011. 

Sopko spoke at the MSU College of Engineering on Monday, Oct. 6, on “Ground Freezing for Containment of Radioactive Groundwater in Fukushima, Japan." The one-mile underground wall will convert water and soil to ice, creating an impermeable ice wall to contain the ongoing contamination by radioactive groundwater. Sopko said construction has already begun with hopes that the project will be capable of freezing soil by March 2015.

Sopko is the director of ground freezing operations at Moretrench American Corp. in Rockaway, N.J., one of the world’s largest groundwater control contractors. He travels extensively, recently guest lecturing in Beijing, China, and currently working on a project in Argentina.

He earned his bachelor’s (‘80), master’s (‘83) and PhD (‘90) degrees in civil engineering from MSU.

The event was hosted by the MSU College of Engineering and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photo courtesy of Digital Globe.