Two workers at the Dounreay nuclear reprocessing plant in northern Scotland have received radiation doses of more than four times the legal limit.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority, which operates the Dounreay site, believes the doses both men received to be above 200 millisieverts compared with the annual legal limit of 50msv and the self-imposed site limit of 15msv.
A Nuclear Installations Inspectorate spokesman said the doses first showed up in annual checks at the start of 1996 and regular further monitoring had established their size. `It just is a very lengthy process to try to get an acceptable handle on the size of the dose,’ he said.
The manner in which the workers contracted the alarmingly high doses – apparently in 1995 – remains a mystery. The two were working in separate parts of the complex – one in the oxide reprocessing plant and the other in the waste handling facilities – and there is not thought to be a connection between their cases.
The UKAEA brought in a team of health physicists and scientists from British Nuclear Fuels, the Atomic Weapons Establishment and the National Radiological Protection Board last year for an independent investigation. A Dounreay spokesman said their report would be published within weeks.