Fukushima visit for University of Glasgow scientist

Published: 28 February 2012

A University of Glasgow scientist is flying to Japan to visit the Fukushima Prefecture, where three nuclear reactors were seriously damaged in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 2011.

A University of Glasgow academic is flying to Japan to visit the Fukushima Prefecture, where three nuclear reactors were seriously damaged in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 2011.  

David Sanderson, Professor of Environmental Physics at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), will be in Japan between 28 February and 9 March following an invitation from Fukushima University, where scientists are working to map and measure the area’s radiation levels.

He will tour Fukushima City and  surrounding areas and deliver speeches to academics and government officials on environmental radiation and how mobile and airborne gamma ray spectrometry techniques can be used to map areas affected by radiation.

He will take a portable gamma ray sensor system to demonstrate a method of radiation measurement developed at SUERC. The information collected by the backpack-mounted sensor can be used to build a visual map of the radiation levels in any given location. Professor Sanderson expects to examine radiation levels on the campus of Fukushima University and in areas within the prefecture which have been affected by the accident.

Significant amounts of radioactive material were released into the air last year when three of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant melted down and caused explosions. Scientists at SUERC, a collaboration between the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, subsequently detected radioactive iodine particles from the plant in the atmosphere over Glasgow, which had been carried by air currents from Fukushima.

Professor Sanderson said: “After the earthquake struck and the scale of the problems unfolding at Fukushima became clear, the team at SUERC helped advise  UK authorities of elevated levels of radiation found in Scotland and offered assistance to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“I’ll be visiting the week before the first anniversary of the earthquake on 11 March. I’ll be speaking about SUERC’s work and the environmental consequences of past nuclear accidents to audiences at Fukushima University and the National Institute for Enviromental Science, and visiting the  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council in Tsukuba.

“I expect the visit will provide a valuable exchange of information and ideas with Japanese academics as well as an opportunity to see for myself how the area is dealing with the lingering after-effects of the earthquake.

“At the end of March, four scientists from Fukushima University will come to East Kilbride to visit SUERC’s headquarters. I look forward to continuing our conversations and exploring new opportunities for collaborations which could be of wide-ranging benefit in the field of environmental radiation detection. ”

Professor Sanderson’s visit to Japan is funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, which promotes UK-Japanese relations, and the University of Glasgow’s College of Science and Engineering.


For more information contact Ross Barker in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 8593 or email ross.barker@glasgow.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

About SUERC: SUERC’s mission is to perform, stimulate and support high quality basic, applied and strategic research, within the Scottish University community and beyond, in the Earth, Environmental and Biomedical Sciences through development and maintenance of high-end analytical facilities, inter-disciplinary exchange and collaborative interaction . 

SUERC provides a focus in Scotland for high quality research through its own research programme and by assisting partner universities successfully to bid for research grants and deliver research outputs.

 Through teaching and training, SUERC contributes to the future supply of highly able scientists. Commercial research and testing is a valuable source of additional income and frequently contributes to national welfare and security. SUERC is operated jointly and funded equally by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and, through a Memorandum of Understanding, Aberdeen University is an Associate Member. 

Links to several other Scottish institutions are illustrated by SUERC’s lead role in  the Research Pooling Initiatives, SAGES, the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society, and ECOSSE, the Edinburgh Collaborative of Sub-surface Science and Engineering.

First published: 28 February 2012