Caithness councillor discusses nuclear decommissioning impact on visit to Japan
A CAITHNESS councillor has visited Japan to discuss the impact of nuclear decommissioning on communities.
Councillor Struan Mackie, deputy chairman of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, who represents Thurso and Northwest Caithness on Highland Council, spent five days in the country as part of the nuclear sector deal to foster stronger links between the British and Japanese nuclear industries and spoke with stakeholders in Tsuruga city, Fukui prefecture.
The whistle-stop visit included two days in Tsuruga, the home of the Japanese atomic energy agency's fast reactor Monju, which is seen as a "partner plant" to Dounreay’s PFR. The trip, supported by the British embassy, also included a formal meeting with Tsuruga city’s mayor, Takanoby Fuchikami, and the delivery of a speech on the Caithness and north Sutherland community at the British embassy.
On his return Councillor Mackie said: “The expertise developed by the Caithness and north Sutherland workforce is well known and highly valued by the Japanese. After delivering my speech at the decommissioning reception in Tokyo I was amazed at how knowledgeable the delegates were about the Dounreay site and the decommissioning progress being made by the workforce.
“The UK and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are viewed as world leaders within nuclear decommissioning for good reason. The work at Dounreay is around a decade more advanced than the Monju site, which only entered decommissioning in December 2016.
"This progress has generated valuable knowledge and experience, with UK companies – Cavendish Nuclear, Wood plc and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd – recently winning a contract to support the decommissioning efforts at Monju.
"We should be immensely proud of that. It is a good news story for UK plc as well as the far north of Scotland.”
Speaking about the the Tsuruga community, Councillor Mackie said: “The area around Monju definitely reminds me of the Scottish Highlands. The coastal port community is far from the large population centres, having a predominantly rural economy but a very strong nuclear presence. There are four nuclear sites and a research centre on the peninsula alone, two of which have recently entered decommissioning.
“Ultimately, the decision to close these sites is still very fresh in local people’s minds and that is why they are looking at Caithness and north Sutherland as a blueprint for engaging with the community and looking to opportunities outwith the nuclear industry.
"That is why I was delighted to have such an in-depth conversation with Takanoby Fuchikami, the mayor of Tsuruga, and I am very hopeful that he will take up my offer to visit us in Highland and see the work first-hand.
"There are great opportunities to build links between our nuclear communities, not only by sharing our experiences with nuclear decommissioning but by also engaging our schools and colleges. I think it would be a very exciting link-up.”
Under the nuclear sector deal, the NDA is working alongside the Department for International Trade on promoting the UK’s nuclear expertise to maximise future export orders across the nuclear life cycle.