Dounreay staff offer advice on Japan’s Fukushima

Japan is trying to deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster

4 June 2012 Last updated at 02:09

Efforts to clean up a seabed off Scotland’s coast could provide Japan with solutions to dealing with its earthquake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

Radioactive particles were flushed from Dounreay in Caithness into the sea through the plant’s liquid discharge pipe in the 1960s and 1970s.

The fragments contaminated local beaches and seabed. Work to recover the seabed particles started in 2008.

Staff from Dounreay have been to Japan to offer advice.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was crippled after being hit by a tsunami in the aftermath of a huge earthquake in March 2011.

Radiation leaks were recorded following subsequent explosions and fires.

Late last month, power company Tepco said reactors at the plant were stable.

But there was concern about the spent fuel pool on the top floor of the badly damaged reactor number four building.

Work to clean up the seabed near Dounreay started in 2008

If it collapses, it could cause another catastrophe, officials have warned. But Tepco said it has reinforced the structure against another earthquake.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of residents remain evacuated from an exclusion zone around the plant.

Phil Cartwright, senior manager in charge of contaminated land clean up at Dounreay, said lessons learned in Scotland could help Japan deal with radioactive contamination.

He said: “At Dounreay, we had a release of radioactive material beyond the site, increasing public anxiety in the late 1990s about the potential health effects and controls put in place to protect public health.”

A strategy was produced to deal with contamination, including efforts to detect and recover particles from the seabed near the site, he said.

Mr Cartwright added: “Japan is at the start of a much bigger clean-up project with significant challenges both on and off site but the issues they face are similar to those we had to work through, even though ours were on a much smaller and more localised scale.

“They were very interested in our experience.”

Dounreay has already donated equipment to Japan for use in dealing with the damaged Fukushima Daiichi complex.

Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) gathered a van-load of respirators, hand-held radiation survey kit, masks and suits.

The equipment was driven to Sellafield, in Cumbria, for distribution