An agreement signed between Sellafield Ltd and TEPCO FDEC will build a working relationship between the two firms facing the world’s biggest nuclear clean-up jobs.
Japanese company TEPCO, who are charged with decontaminating the Fukushima plant which was devastated by a tsunami in 2011, is to sign an historic co-operation statement with UK nuclear operator Sellafield Ltd.
The agreement is the first step in enabling formal arrangements for the transfer of knowledge and experience between TEPCO and Sellafield Ltd, the company responsible for cleaning up the Europe’s most complex nuclear site, in Cumbria. It will give TEPCO access to the skills available from SMEs engaged in the Sellafield Ltd supply chain and provide access for the UK to advancements made at Fukushima over the coming years.
It is due to be signed at the Imperial Collage at a ceremony attended by Ed Davey, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who is in London this week on a state visit.
The co-operation statement was brokered by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the government agency responsible for the clean up of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy, and owner of the Sellafield site. The NDA lead the UK’s response to the Fukushima incident, facilitating the availability of equipment and expertise from Sellafield and other UK nuclear operators.
The co-operation statement builds on that foundation by beginning to formalise a working relationship between Sellafield and the Japanese.
Sellafield Ltd Managing Director, Tony Price, heralded the agreement as a major step forward for the company and the wider UK nuclear industry.
He said: “We have much that we can help the Japanese with initially, as the move their focus from power generation and to cleaning up and decommissioning.
“But the technical expertise of the Japanese is renowned the world over, they are experts in design and manufacturing and, judging by their past performance on everything from motorcycles to nuclear reprocessing –once they start decommissioning in earnest there will be much that they can teach us.
“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.
“We serve similar local communities and I know that the one thing the Japanese are keen to mirror is the way in which we work with our local community to inform them about the work we do in an open, transparent and proactive manner. We’ve already sent a delegation to Japan to talk to them about how we work in partnership with our local stakeholders.
“Although this agreement has been reached and signed between ourselves and TEPCO, operator to operator, the NDA played a pivotal role in making it possible by fostering relations over the last couple of years, and I would like to thank them for making this possible.”
Naohiro Masuda, the President of TEPCO’s new Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company, (FDEC), said: “It has been a great honour for me to visit Sellafield and to sign this agreement between our companies.
“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 – working with Sellafield Ltd, 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.”
In real terms the agreement will mean that nuclear clean up and safety experts from the companies will visit each others’ sites regularly to share information. The Japanese will also have better access to the Sellafield supply chain, which could potentially mean work for English SMEs.
One West Cumbrian SME is already working at Fukushima. REACT Engineering were formed 20 years ago to work at the Sellafield site, but their advancements across a broad range of technologies have seen them work all over the world.
Founder and Director Pete Woolaghan said: “We’ve got an engineer from West Cumbria out in Japan right now, working on the roof of the reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
“As an industry we need to work together and I’m delighted that we are able to help the Japanese.”