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Japanese opportunities for UK nuclear specialists

Contractors working on Sellafield nuclear power station could win work on the Fukushima clean-up in Japan.

Nuclear plant operator Sellafield Ltd and Tepco FDEC, the company in charge of decontaminating the site in eastern Japan have signed a cooperation agreement this week.

The Fukushima plant suffered a partial meltdown after it was hit by a tsunami in 2011.

Under the agreement Tepco representatives will visit Sellafield to learn from its clean-up work. The deal will also provide opportunities for the UK firm to see advancements made at Fukushima in future.

“Tepco will be over in West Cumbria fairly frequently and have access to meeting some of our suppliers,” a Sellafield spokesman told NCE.

“If our suppliers come to us with certain proven technology, we can be used as a pipeline for work [in Japan].”

One engineer from Cumbrian firm React Engineering is working at Fukushima already, and a team for Bristol University is to take a radiation mapping device to the Japanese site.

The formal agreement was signed by Sellafield Ltd managing director Tony Price and Tepco FDEC president Naohiro Masuda in London this week.

Price said: “What this co-operation statement will do is formalise a working relationship which has existed for 60 years between the UK nuclear industry and the Japanese, and it opens up channels for us to work more closely together now and in the future.

“There are many similar challenges that we’ll be facing on our sites over the coming years and we can share our experiences, access to our supply chains and any advancements that come in the future. This will make sure we are both better equipped to deliver our respective missions.”

Masuda said it was an honour to visit Sellafield.

“We are now three years into the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi, and while we have made good progress, our biggest challenge has been in shifting the mindset from power generation to decommissioning,” he said.

“Working with Sellafield, who are several years ahead of us in terms of decommissioning, will help us to move forward more quickly.

“We also have some wisdom that we can share, we’ve made some good progress over the last three years and we look forward to working closely with Tony and his team at Sellafield.”

Fukushima and Sellafield have endured criticism in recent years.

Last August, a leak of radioactive water from storage tanks at Fukushima shook confidence in the management of the clean-up and containment operation.

Tepco FDEC - Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company - was created in April 2014 to focus solely on decommissioning and contaminated water at the plant.

Meanwhile the National Audit Office said in late 2012 that the performance of some of the major projects at Sellafield had been poor.

The decommissioning programme reached a

landmark this week when the 100th building on the site was demolished.

Energy secretary Ed Davey and Japanese prime minister Sinzo Abe attended the signing of the agreement.

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