The radioactive filters that contaminated two Sellafield workers with plutonium last month had been left in a foreman’s office, British Nuclear Fuels has admitted.
An independent nuclear consultant, John Large, said the storage ‘albeit temporary’ of potentially hazardous items in such an inappropriate location showed ‘shocking management control’.
Large said: ‘These components are so dangerous if they are involved in some form of release. They should never have been in a foreman’s office.’
A BNFL spokesman confirmed the men had been in the office at the time of the incident. As to whether the temporary storage of the filters there constituted a serious breach of safety procedures, he said: ‘That’s something we’ll have to wait for the results of the inquiry to find out.’
He said that some of the offices in the B209 building were still in use, despite chemical operations at the plutonium-finishing plant having ceased in the mid-1980s.
The foreman’s office was in a part of the building that was being decommissioned.
A spokesman for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, which is also investigating the incident, said that the bagged filters had been left in the office only momentarily by one of the individuals while he was collecting some keys from the room.
Whether this action had broken safety rules ‘was all part of the investigation’.