Who needs bathrooms? ([email protected])
Tue, 04 Aug 1998 16:56:25 -0600
Please note, that this is a condensed version of the original article.
Condensed from The Irish Times:
Workers evacuated after Sellafield accident
By Dick Ahlstrom
Highly toxic plutonium has been released in an accident within
the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria.
A group of 72 workers was forced to evacuate a laboratory at
midday yesterday where the leak of plutonium oxide occurred.
One worker was found to have been contaminated externally
by the release but this was cleaned away, according to a
spokeswoman for BNFL which operates the plant.
The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and
Employment with responsibility for nuclear safety, Mr Joe
Jacob, said last night he would be pursuing his UK
counterparts for more information about the incident "as a
matter of urgency".
"Departmental officials and the Radiological Protection Institute
of Ireland would be seeking immediate clarification regarding
the latest incident at Sellafield," he said.
The leak, which set off automatic alarms, occurred at the "B33
MOX Demonstration Facility" according to a BNFL statement.
This is a prototype part of the Sellafield plant which makes an
advanced fuel mix combining uranium and plutonium recovered
from reprocessing activities.
"During routine operations there was a minor escape of
radioactivity that was contained within the building itself,"
according to the statement. Alarms were triggered and staff
occupying the facility were evacuated.
There had been "no release" outside the laboratory or the plant,
a BNFL spokeswoman said last night. Staff were last night
back in the laboratory assessing the extent of the release.
There were filters and other safety equipment to prevent the
powdered plutonium oxide from escaping, she said. The
statement added that "grass samples had been taken in order to
confirm that there was no release of activity from the building".
One Sellafield worker was found to have been contaminated
and was sent to the site surgery, according to the BNFL
statement. "Initial testing of that individual has not shown any
internal contamination and all external contamination has been
removed. Other personnel were monitored prior to being
allowed to go home and everyone was found to be clear,"
according to BNFL.
Plutonium is particularly dangerous as it stays radioactive for
many centuries. While it is relatively simple to afford external
protection against it, the great risk is that the plutonium would
enter the body, for example by being breathed in. Once in the
lung the plutonium would cause significant and persistent
damage to tissues, leading in turn to cancers.
BNFL would have been required to report the incident to the
relevant UK regulatory authorities. The company confirmed
that these had in fact been briefed.
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