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Bri­tish nu­clear engi­neers to fly to stricken Fukushima plant

- By Louise Armitstead Japan · Austria · Iceland · Tokyo · Fukushima · Belgium · Belarus · United Kingdom · France · Chernobyl · the Japanese government · United States of America · New York County, NY · U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission · Washington · Washington · Hong Kong · Rupert Murdoch · London · London Records · University of Pennsylvania · Pennsylvania · Fukushima Prefecture · Tokyo Electric Power · Brits · Toshiba · Hitachi · London Electric · Cumbria · Chernobyl · Atomic Kitten · Eurasian Natural Resources · Nuclear Regulatory Commission · PPF Group · Washington University in St. Louis · New York University · Sellafield (United Kingdom) · NuGeneration

BRI­TISH nu­clear ex­perts are be­ing lined up to help de­com­mis­sion the dam­aged Fukushima power plant in a move that could re­boot Ja­pan’s atomic power ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Lady Judge, the Bri­tishAmer­i­can nu­clear ex­pert and ad­viser at Fukushima, is ar­rang­ing for engi­neers from Sel­lafield in Cum­bria to travel to Ja­pan to ad­vise on de­con­tam­i­nat­ing and shut­ting down the stricken site.

“At Sel­lafield and Doun­reay we are de­com­mis­sion­ing big power plants and we can pro­vide a very good ex­am­ple to the Ja­panese of how to do it safely,” said Lady Judge in an in­ter­view with The Daily

Tele­graph. “I’ve been talk­ing to Sel­lafield about send­ing some engi­neers to help.”

The Tokyo Elec­tric Power Com­pany (Tepco), which owns the Fukushima plant, is plan­ning to launch a new sub­sidiary for de­com­mis­sion­ing and de­con­tam­i­na­tion on April 1. The di­vi­sion is ex­pected to be headed by a Ja­panese nu­clear ex­pert who is ex­pected to be ad­vised by Bri­tish engi­neers.

On Fri­day, Sel­lafield or­dered all non-es­sen­tial staff to stay at home af­ter el­e­vated read­ings of ra­di­a­tion were de­tected on site. Later of­fi­cials at the plant – the site of Bri­tain’s worst nu­clear ac­ci­dent in 1957 – said nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring ra­dioac­tive gas that comes from rocks and soil had trig­gered the alarm.

“A lot of knowl­edge will go be­tween Ja­pan and the UK,” said Lady Judge. “Help­ing the Ja­panese will also help the Brits. We will ben­e­fit from work­ing in Ja­pan, the nu­clear in­dus­try will ben­e­fit, and R&D will flour­ish in both coun­tries.”

The move would re­verse the roles in the UK where Ja­panese com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Toshiba and Hi­tachi, are lead­ing the plans, along­side France’s EDF En­ergy, to build the first nu­clear power sta­tions in Bri­tain for decades. Three weeks ago, Toshiba agreed to buy a 60pc stake in NuGen­er­a­tion, the UK nu­clear ven­ture that plans to build three new plants at the Moor­side site in West Cum­bria.

Lady Judge said that while Bri­tain had lost most of its nu­clear build­ing ex­per­tise, the coun­try was still a world leader in de­com­mis­sion­ing.

Al­most 18 months ago, she was asked to join a new in­ter­na­tional over­sight board at Tepco and was ap­pointed deputy chair­man of its nu­clear re­form mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee. She is in charge of safety.

The com­pany is des­per­ate to re­build trust with the pub­lic. The earth­quake and tsunami that struck the Dai­ichi plant in March 2011 caused the worst nu­clear ac­ci­dent since Ch­er­nobyl.

Most of Ja­pan’s nu­clear plants re­main closed, de­spite the crip­pling costs of im­port­ing oil and gas. Last week, Ja­pan re­ported a record trade deficit of 11.5tril­lion yen (£68bn), up 65pc from a year ago, due to soar­ing en­ergy costs.

an it re­ally be true that Lady Judge, a wafer-thin 68-yearold with a ruffed col­lar and a French bun, is the saviour of Ja­pan’s nu­clear in­dus­try – and, ar­guably, its econ­omy too? Granted, the Amer­i­can-born Brit ra­di­ates formidabil­ity: her glance, down an im­mac­u­lately pow­dered nose, has the pen­e­tra­tion of a gamma ray. And she was once dubbed “The Atomic Kit­ten” by But let’s face it, the Ja­panese aren’t known for tak­ing their prob­lems to for­eign­ers, es­pe­cially not to women.

Yet for 16 months Judge has been ad­vis­ing the Tokyo Elec­tric Power Com­pany (Tepco) on han­dling its most toxic prob­lem: the Fukushima nu­clear power plant.

Nearly 18,000 peo­ple were killed by the earth­quake and tsunami that struck Ja­pan in March 2011, while the triple melt­down at Fukushima’s Dai­ichi plant was the world’s big­gest nu­clear catas­tro­phe since Ch­er­nobyl.

Though it seems hardly pos­si­ble, Tepco’s han­dling of the dis­as­ter made things worse. Its first re­port, in June 2011, con­cluded that the com­pany could not “imag­ine an oc­cur­rence of such a tsunami”. That was scotched by the emer­gence of an in­ter­nal re­port from 2008 that had warned Fukushima was at risk from a ma­jor tsunami.

Two re­ports from last year sug­gested a cosy cover-up be­tween Tepco, the reg­u­la­tors and the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment. In July last year, Tepco asked for a 1tril­lion yen (£5.9bn) gov­ern­ment bail-out. In Ja­pan, pub­lic hos­til­ity to­wards nu­clear has deep­ened and power plants re­main dor­mant, de­spite the crip­pling cost of im­ported fuel.

So ad­mit­tedly Tepco was on its knees when it turned to Judge in the au­tumn. Judge – who gets her ti­tle from her third hus­band, Sir Paul Judge, the food mil­lion­aire, Tory donor and for­mer di­rec­tor of the trou­bled ENRC – says Tepco di­rec­tors had been im­pressed by a speech she’d de­liv­ered in Ja­pan six months ear­lier. She spoke about new nu­clear sta­tions, but added one cru­cial ob­ser­va­tion. “I said that I’d no­ticed that the most vo­cal crit­ics of nu­clear are women, par­tic­u­larly well-ed­u­cated women. It’s true in Amer­ica, France, and UK and in Ja­pan, too,” she says. “Then I told Ja­panese news­pa­pers what I thought: that the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment should set up an over­ar­ch­ing board for the nu­clear in­dus­try that in­cluded more than half women. It seemed to me that only the naysay­ers were be­ing heard.”

The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment ig­nored Judge’s sug­ges­tion but Tepco reck­oned she was on to some­thing. In Oc­to­ber, Tepco es­tab­lished a nu­clear re­form mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee to over­haul the cul­ture, prac­tices and pub­lic im­age of the com­pany. Dr Dale Klein, the for­mer chair­man of the US Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion, was ap­pointed as chair­man; Judge, who is also chair­man of Bri­tain’s Pen­sion Pro­tec­tion Fund (PPF), was asked to be his deputy – and head of safety.

“This was a huge ac­ci­dent – peo­ple [in Ja­pan] didn’t know how to deal with it,” says Judge. But she adds that the re­forms show a rev­o­lu­tion in at­ti­tude as well as ac­tions. “I can see real progress and real de­ter­mi­na­tion and change. They are open­ing the doors to for­eign­ers – and the fact they put a woman in a very se­nior po­si­tion means that they are un­der­stand­ing that they have to utilise all the ex­pe­ri­ence they can.”

Judge has been break­ing glass ceil­ings all her life. Her mother, her “defin­ing in­flu­ence”, worked un­til she was 88 – ini­tially teach­ing women in 1950s New York how to get a job. “Peo­ple thought my mother was so strange,” says Judge. “She was on a TV pro­gramme called a game for celebri­ties to guess the strange oc­cu­pa­tion of the guest. My mother’s strange oc­cu­pa­tion was teach­ing women to work who didn’t have to. Af­ter her, the next per­son on was a snake-charmer.” Judge adds: “She be­lieved women should work, not be­cause they needed to eco­nom­i­cally but be­cause they have a brain.”

Judge planned to be an ac­tress but her mother put her foot down. “She said ‘We’re not hav­ing any starv­ing ac­tresses in this fam­ily. If you want to act you can do it in front of a jury’,” she re­mem­bers. With that, Judge started down the path to be­come a lawyer.

“I worked very hard and did very well,” she says, with char­ac­ter­is­tic di­rect­ness. Af­ter law school, she wanted to be a cor­po­rate or lit­i­ga­tion lawyer but was re­peat­edly told by bosses “that’s for tough men, not you”.

She re­solved to work “till 3am ev­ery day”. She also ditched her short skirts and long blonde hair for black suits and a tightly spun bun, trade­marks she still wears to­day. She be­came a cor­po­rate lawyer – and also the youngest part­ner of a big New York law firm in 1978.

Two years later, she was ap­pointed the youngest mem­ber of the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion (SEC). When she asked how she had been cho­sen, she was told that the Pres­i­dent wanted a woman, a se­cu­ri­ties lawyer and a part­ner of a big law firm. “I was told they could only find six in the whole of Amer­ica,” she says. Judge left be­hind her rel­a­tively new hus­band, also a lawyer, in New York and went to work in Wash­ing­ton for five years. Judge says the high­light of her term was ne­go­ti­at­ing in Ja­pan for for­eign­ers to be al­lowed to buy seats on the Tokyo Stock Ex­change.

Next, Judge moved to Hong Kong with her hus­band and new son. Once there, she switched to bank­ing and be­came the first fe­male di­rec­tor of Bri­tain’s Sa­muel Mon­tagu bank. She de­vel­oped a pas­sion for Bri­tish peo­ple and cul­ture from the ex­pa­tri­ates, who talked “about books and in­ter­est­ing things, not money all the time”, she says. So, af­ter another stint in the US, she be­came a di­rec­tor of Ru­pert Mur­doch’s News In­ter­na­tional and the fam­ily moved to Lon­don in 1993.

Judge be­came known as an im­pres­sive net­worker and col­lec­tor of 1946

Mar­ried, with one son Lon­don and France

Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia and New York Univer­sity Law School New York cor­po­rate lawyer

Chair­man of the Pen­sion Pro­tec­tion Fund; deputy chair­man of the Tepco nu­clear re­form mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee and head of its task force on nu­clear safety di­rec­tor­ships. The one that re­ally changed my life” was her ap­point­ment to the board of the UK Atomic En­ergy Au­thor­ity in 2002. At the time, it was fo­cused on de­com­mis­sion­ing Bri­tain’s unloved nu­clear power plants. But an in­creas­ing re­liance on ex­pen­sive gas im­ports com­bined with green con­cerns was bring­ing new nu­clear on to the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

Pro­moted to chair­man of the UKAEA in 2004, and by now mar­ried to Sir Paul, Judge lob­bied hard for new UK nu­clear plants. She says the slow progress was then set back by the fi­nan­cial cri­sis. But she de­nies that the process has been chaotic. “From where I’m sat, it doesn’t seem [the Gov­ern­ment] is lurch­ing back and forth, it’s that they’ve been go­ing slower,” she says.

But she’s sup­port­ive of the Gov­ern­ment’s deal with France’s EDF to build Bri­tain’s first new nu­clear plant for decades at Hink­ley Point, de­spite claims that the price was too ex­pen­sive. “It was im­por­tant to get a deal done and get this thing started,” she says. “We don’t re­ally know how ex­pen­sive it is – shale gas could make all sorts of en­ergy sources look un­eco­nomic in the fu­ture.”

She calls her­self a “be­liever” in shale gas, though warns that Bri­tain’s young in­dus­try can’t ex­pect to go as fast as the US. “Amer­ica is a big coun­try with fewer peo­ple,” she says. “Bri­tain is more crowded and we have to take the pop­u­la­tion with us on frack­ing, so that lo­cal peo­ple feel the ben­e­fits are worth the dis­rup­tion.”

Mean­while, she says that Bri­tain must con­tinue to de­velop a “bou­quet of en­ergy sources” – in­clud­ing nu­clear.

“Per­son­ally, I’m sorry we didn’t keep our own nu­clear ex­per­tise and sold Bri­tish En­ergy and West­ing­house,” she says. Still, she ar­gues that Bri­tain’s in­dus­try and the nu­clear sup­ply chain will ben­e­fit from the ad­vances made with the in­ter­na­tional ex­perts in­volved. “All the com­pa­nies – Toshiba, Hi­tachi, AREVA – will work to make the power plants the ab­so­lute best. And be­cause they are our plants, we must make sure our do­mes­tic sup­pli­ers are utilised. So even though it’s for­eign­ers build­ing the plants, we will get the ben­e­fits of jobs and af­flu­ence go­ing for­ward.”

Mean­while, Judge is de­ter­mined to ex­port Bri­tish ex­per­tise – the UK is still among the best at de­com­mis­sion­ing – to Ja­pan. “Help­ing the Ja­panese will also help the Brits,” says Judge. “We will ben­e­fit from work­ing in Ja­pan, the nu­clear in­dus­try will ben­e­fit, and R&D will flour­ish in both coun­tries.”

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