Sunday 25 May 2014
A senior delegation, led by Managing Director Peter Bleasdale, visited Japan recently to introduce Nexia Solutions and outline plans for the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to existing and potential customers/collaborators and Japanese Government departments.Immediately after arriving in Japan, Nexia Solutions Managing Director Peter Bleasdale, Chief Technology Officer Graham Fairhall and Head of Business Development Tom Rice travelled from Tokyo to the far north of the island of Honshu. They continued on to the Shimokita peninsular and the Japanese reprocessing plant at Rokkasho-mura. To support their busy itinerary, the Nexia Solutions party used the Japanese bullet train, the Shinkansen, which regularly reaches speeds of over 300 km/h. Winters in this part of Japan are very cold although, quite surprisingly, this year there has been very little snow. The Rokkasho-mura plant is operated by JNFL (Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd) and is currently in the final stages of commissioning. Nexia Solutions parent company BNFL has supplied low pressure evaporator technology to JNFL and another BNFL subsidiary, British Nuclear Group, has a support team stationed at Rokkasho. The Nexia Solutions party met with the Rokkasho Managing Director and briefed him on the capabilities of Nexia Solutions and the forthcoming NNL. Nexia Solutions already has lengthy experience in supporting British Nuclear Group evaporator performance at the Sellafield site in the UK. The meeting in Japan went well and both parties are receptive to establishing stronger links. Discussions are expected to continue and Nexia Solutions is looking forward to examining ways in which it can offer effective support to JNFL and Rokkasho in the future. The Nexia Solutions party then returned to Tokyo for further meetings with Japanese Government Ministries METI and MEXT, the Research Institutes CRIEPI and JAEA, the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) and the utility JAPC (Japan Atomic Power Company). The meeting with the Japanese Government was very positive. Recent renewed interest in new nuclear build in the UK is seen as a very positive step forward by Japan. The creation of a NNL was seen as a further positive step. MEXT and METI were interested in hearing about the NNL and its future programmes. There was considerable interest in the future involvement of Nexia Solutions in the US Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Programme (GNEP) programme and the possibility of international collaborations. Nexia Solutions already has strong links with CRIEPI, the Japanese Research Institute. The meeting between the two built on those links. Nexia Solutions and CRIEPI are of a similar size with similar numbers of researchers. Mr Shirato, President of CRIEPI, was briefed about the plans for the NNL in the UK and future research programmes. Nexia Solutions and CRIEPI currently have joint interests in specific areas and both sides agreed to consider other initiatives for future co-operation. Nexia Solutions Chief Technology Officer Graham Fairhall was able to outline potential opportunities in selected areas. JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency) is the research and development organisation formed in 2005 from the Japan Nuclear Cycle Institute (JNC) and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI). JAEA are now the principal government nuclear research institute in Japan. Nexia Solutions has a long standing technical co-operation agreement with JAEA and the two organisations are collaborating on several research and development work programmes. New JAEA President Okazaki was very interested to hear from the Nexia Solutions delegation about the future plans for the NNL. Mr Okazaki emphasised the importance of ensuring the continuation of JAEA’s links with the new NNL. Again, there was interest from JAEA in potential involvement in the US GNEP programme. The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) represented the interests of the Japanese utilities in a meeting with Nexia Solutions. FEPCO was very receptive and supportive of recent developments in the UK concerning the NNL. Recently Mr Tanaka of FEPCO had visited the British Technology Centre (BTC) at Sellafield and had been impressed with the new facility. FEPCO was very encouraged that Nexia Solutions and the UK was committed to nuclear research and development, particularly when integrating the joint strengths of industry and academia in initiatives such as University Research Alliances. Nexia Solutions also had a productive first meeting with Toshiba Power. During 2006, the BNFL Group completed the sale of its Westinghouse subsidiary, including the Springfields Fuels business, to Toshiba. Other highlights of the trip included an interview with the ‘Denki Shimbun’ for Nexia Solutions MD Peter Bleasdale. This is the daily publication in Japan that reports on all matters in and around the electricity industry. Peter was able to explain the changes ongoing in the nuclear industry in the UK, the new NNL and the ongoing role Nexia Solutions will have as its foundation. The final day of the trip was spent on the western side of Japan and the town of Tsuruga. This area is home to several reactors including the Kansai Electric Power Company’s pressurised water reactors at Ohi and Mihama and the fast breeder reactor, Monju. The Nexia Solutions party visited INSS, a research institute involved in work on materials performance. More specifically, this work includes the effects of ageing on nuclear plant and human factors research. The Institute is a subsidiary of Kansai, the largest PWR utility in Japan. Nexia Solutions recently carried out a major project on behalf of INSS covering irradiated steels performance.During a very productive visit to Japan, Peter Bleasdale and the Nexia Solutions party was able to outline the background to the organisation and future plans for the NNL. A range of senior decision makers in the Japanese Government, research institutes and the nuclear industry were briefed about the future of nuclear technology development in the UK. In summary, Japan seems determined to move forward with the fast breeder fuel cycle and there are potential opportunities for Nexia Solutions and the NNL to contribute given our expertise in fuel cycle technologies. The Nexia Solutions party was encouraged to seek out collaborations at all levels and were invited to make specific proposals on how the organisation can best provide technology support to future Japanese programmes.