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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 12:36 GMT
Timeline: Dounreay's troubles
Dounreay
The Caithness plant has been hit by safety concerns
Investigations are continuing to discover the source of radioactive contamination at the Dounreay nuclear reprocessing plant in Caithness.

20 workers received medical treatment after contaminated particles were discovered on their shoes, hands and, in the case of one worker, his face.

Here is a timeline of Dounreay's controversial recent past.

1998:
31 March - The government announces it will spend more than 200m cleaning a contaminated shaft at Dounreay. The pit was sealed more than 20 years ago but is still leaking radioactivity.

Dounreay map
The plant is a major employer in the area
22 April - It is announced that Dounreay is to receive a total of 5.1kg of uranium, including 800g of waste fuel flown in an American transport plane from the former Soviet state of Georgia.

16 May - The Health and Safety Executive announces a sweeping review of safety at Dounreay. It follows an incident when a mechanical digger accidentally cut through power cables paralysing the plant.

2 June - It emerges that 170kg of weapons-grade enriched uranium from the nuclear plant cannot be accounted for.

5 June - The government announces that Dounreay is to be closed, although the necessary decontamination work will take many years. The plant employs 1,400 staff.

1999:
28 January - An investigation confirms weapons-grade uranium has gone missing at the nuclear plant. However the energy minister said the amount lost is tiny and "acceptable" by modern standards.

Dounreay nuclear plant
Operators deny cover-ups
28 May - Five workers at Dounreay have to be monitored for possible radioactive contamination. They had been handling a package of uranium waste when it burst in to flames.

1 August - The operators of Dounreay are accused of delaying the news that they have found another radioactive "hot-spot" near the site. A Dounreay spokesman said he was waiting for the results of tests before making the news public.

2000:
7 March - A report praises the management at Dounreay for the progress made in improving safety. However the House of Commons trade and industry committee warns that much still needs to be done.

1 August - The operators of the Caithness plant accept "full responsibility" for breaches of safety which caused two major alerts. The UK Atomic Energy Authority is fined 101,000 after three workers are contaminated and a main power cable is cut.

Drums of nuclear waste
40-year-old waste in storage
28 May
- Another radioactive particle is found on a beach close to the Dounreay plant. It is the 12th particle to be found there since 1983. Nine have been discovered in the last 12 months.

2001:
18 July - The government rules out any future role for the Dounreay plant as a nuclear reprocessing site. The energy minister said that he thinks a refurbishment of the plant's reprocessing systems is not merited.

2002:
22 January - Dounreay is given a clean bill of health by inspectors following a safety review. However the Nuclear Installations Inspector said the ability to decommission the site fully will depend on the ability to recruit sufficient numbers of staff.

See also:

13 Nov 02 | Scotland
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