This week’s revelation that British Nuclear Fuels has no idea how one of its workers at Sellafield came to be contaminated with illegally high levels of plutonium last year is all the more disturbing because it is not the first time this has happened.
Another Sellafield worker was contaminated with enough plutonium in 1995 to give him a lifetime dose of more than four times the legal limit. Again, investigations by the company and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate failed to establish the cause, so no direct preventive action was taken.
Two similar cases have occurred at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s reprocessing site at Dounreay.
In the continuing absence of any explanation, it is clear that workers and the general public can have very little confidence in the management of such operations.