Suffolk: Ex nuclear engineer praises Japanese safety effort after earthquake

A FORMER nuclear engineer last night praised safety measures at reactors in earthquake hit Japan - although anti-nuclear campaigners branded the effects of the disaster a “wake-up call”.

Len Green worked at both Sizewell A and B power stations as well as other reactors in eastern Europe, including Chernobyl.

The 72-year-old, who lives in Henley, near Ipswich, has 40 years experience in the industry and said the power stations in Japan had performed well.

The cooling systems of two reactors at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant failed after the earthquake struck last week.

On Saturday, a huge explosion blew apart the building housing reactor 1, where technicians had been venting steam to cool the reactor. Sea water is being used to cool the other reactor.

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Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated and at least 19 people are being treated for exposure to radiation.

Mr Green said the reactor shut down as it should after the earthquake but needed to be cooled.

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When the tsunami hit it effected the generator that was powering the cooling system, forcing engineers to start venting in a bid to keep temperatures down.

It was this process that caused the explosion to an outer wall of the building - not within the reactor itself, he said.

“The reactor shut down absolutely correctly,” he said. “It was perfect. I have nothing but admiration for the way the Japanese have handled the situation.

“What you have got left is a lot of residual heat - if you turn off a boiling kettle it is still hot. The problem has been how to keep it cool. Has there been a leak of radiation? No. Has there been radiation into the environment? Yes. Its been deliberately put there because the risks were considered small. They evacuated people out and the amount of radiation was small - they needed to vent the reactor to keep the pressure under control.

“People will understandably be concerned but we will not get a situation like Chernobyl.”

But Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said: “It’s a warning to us all. It’s not likely that we will ever get an earthquake of that intensity in the UK or a tidal wave of that magnitude but the threat of a terrorist attack is very real.

“East Anglia could be turned into a nuclear desert. I don’t think we will be affected by what has happened in Japan - it is too far away - but it is a wake up call.”

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