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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Organ removal inquiry widened
The case of 65 former workers at Sellafield sparked initial concerns
An inquiry into the removal of body tissue from nuclear workers at Sellafield in Cumbria has been expanded to cover a number of other sites.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling says samples may also have been taken from non-nuclear workers.

The inquiry has widened to include Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Berkshire and UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA) at Harwell in Oxfordshire.

It will ask why samples were taken and if next of kin were informed.

Mr Darling told the Commons he had asked Michael Redfern QC, who is heading the inquiry, to consider the fresh information he had received since establishing the investigation last week.

"The UKAEA tell me they believe such work was carried out at Harwell at least until the early 1980s and possibly at other UKAEA sites, potentially involving work related to individuals who had not been employed at nuclear sites," he told MPs.

The AWE believes there could have been additional testing on their employees
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling

"The AWE believes there could have been additional testing on their employees."

British Nuclear Group, which owns the Sellafield site where the practice first came to light, says tissue was taken for "legally correct" purposes.

The UKAEA said it had launched an internal review of its own records after the Sellafield cases came to light.

'Information sketchy'

The checks showed similar work had been carried out at the Oxfordshire site until at least the 1980s, including on "deceased persons who were not employees of the nuclear industry".

UKAEA director of assurance Dr John Crofts said: "Our preliminary checks of records dating back 45 years have identified evidence Harwell was involved in such work but the information we have at this stage is incomplete and sketchy."

He promised the authority was now hoping to complete its review "as speedily as possible".

Who authorised the taking of samples and when?
Were families of the deceased told?
What was the purpose of keeping samples?

Mr Redfern QC - who also led the investigation into the removal of children's organs at Alder Hey hospital, Liverpool - was asked to investigate trade union claims that permission was not sought to remove tissue, which included bones and body parts.

Originally it was thought to affect the families of 65 workers - most of them at the Cumbrian site, but also some at Springfields in Lancashire.

Of the samples, 23 were taken following a coroner's request, 33 after a post-mortem examination, three were associated with legal proceedings and one was a biopsy from a living person.

'Disturbing development'

In four cases there is no information about how the request came about.

Shadow energy minister Charles Hendry described Thursday's announcement as a "disturbing development".

"It is now clear the removal of tissue samples was on a much larger scale than was first thought," he added.

"Serious questions will need to be answered as to whether tissue samples were taken without proper consent or authorisation and why families were not informed."

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30 Mar 06 |  Business

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