UKAEA fined for plutonium exposure

13 July 2007

[Press Association, UKAEA, 12 July] The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has been fined GBP15,000 ($30,400) by Wick Sherrif Court after an employee at the Dounreay nuclear plant breathed in 1.7 mSv of plutonium. Two workers were exposed to the plutonium in the incident while they were loading contaminated lead bricks contained in plastic bags into drums in January 2006. The court heard that the bags had not been marked to identify what they contained and that no risk assessment had been conducted prior to the workers being instructed to pack the bags in drums. The UKAEA also failed to ensure one of the employees was wearing a protective radiation suit during the operation. The prosecution followed an investigation by the UK Health & Safety Executive's (HSE's) Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII) into record keeping and the storage of material at the former Marshall fuel reprocessing laboratory which the employees had been sent to help decommission. UKAEA pleased guilty to a charge brought under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Simon Middlemas, Dounreay's site director said: "We accept some mistakes were made in the Marshall Lab at the beginning of last year resulting in a worker receiving a very minimal plutonium intake. It should not have happened and we, very quickly, addressed a number of issues highlighted by the NII." Dounreay, a former fast reactor research and development centre, was shut in 1994. It is earmarked for a GBP2.9 billion ($5.9 billion) decommissioning by 2033.

Further information


UK Health & Safety Executive

WNA's Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom information paper
Plutonium information paper
Radiation and Nuclear Energy information paper