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Hadleigh: Flood expert joins international panel

09:00 06 February 2013

James Dent

James Dent

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THE views of a weather expert from Suffolk will contribute to an international document advising of the risks of flooding to nuclear installations.

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James Dent, from Hadleigh, who spent several years working overseas as chief technical adviser to the Bangladesh flood forecasting and warning unit, has been appointed to a World Meteorological Organisation expert panel.

The group of four international specialists is scheduled to meet in Geneva for the first time next week, where it will begin reviewing the organisation’s manuals on the safety of design of nuclear power stations.

According to Mr Dent, 65, who also helped form the UK’s first national flood warning unit in 2000, the review of safety guidelines has been prompted by Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. He said: “By their nature, nuclear power stations tend to be sited close to water because they need a lot of cooling water, so building them in places like Sizewell is quite attractive.

“But the incident at the power station in Japan really woke people up to the possibility that events like this can occur.

“The World Met organisation wrote a guidance manual on nuclear plant weather safety back in the 1980s, but they have decided it needs to be fully revised because so many things have changed – we now have radar, much better satellite coverage and more data.”

Mr Dent said sea flooding was only one risk area that the panel would be investigating. He continued: “We also now have to take into account the possible risks of flooding from heavy rainfall. If a lot of water got into a power station and managed to get to the reactors, it could be very serious indeed. We will be looking at all of the possible risks so people who are designing power stations in the future will be fully aware of what they need to prepare for.”

Safety measures he will recommend include drains that are made sufficiently large and properly maintained, and flood defence walls that are “over-designed” to stand the test of time. He added: “In the past 40 years, there’s been a tendency to just do a ‘little bit’ more than is necessary, which doesn’t allow for the fact that nature is fairly unpredictable.”

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