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BBC Scotland's Craig Anderson reports
"The sheriff said it was an employer's duty to ensure staff safety"
 real 28k

Lorraine Mann, anti-nuclear campaigner
"They were only fined 1,000 for the second incident"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Dounreay chiefs admit safety lapses
Dounreay
Three plant workers were exposed to radiation
The operators of the Dounreay nuclear plant have accepted "full responsibility" for breaches of safety which caused two major alerts.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority was fined 101,000 after admitting responsibility for the contamination of three workers at the Caithness plant and an incident in which a mains electricity cable was severed.



This should never have happened. I am sorry that these events occurred

Dounreay director Peter Welsh
The second incident prompted the most fundamental review of safety at the plant in its 40-year history.

It resulted in a damning report with 143 separate recommendations for improving operating procedures at Dounreay.

It also prompted the government to halt all foreign imports of radioactive waste for reprocessing and to shut down the entire fuel recycling area.

Source unknown

Three charges which UKAEA faced at Dornoch Sheriff Court related to an incident in 1995 in which three workers became contaminated with radiation from plutonium.

The contamination was only discovered during routine medical checks and, despite an in-depth investigation, the source and date on which it occurred were never discovered.

The three workers - Kenneth Werfel, Graham Budge and Kenneth Treasurer - will face radiation monitoring for the rest of their lives.

In fining UKAEA 100,000 for the three breaches of health and safety rules, Sheriff Ian Cameron said:" It is morally imperative that employers should ensure the safety of their employees".

Dounreay Director Peter Welsh later said: "This should never have happened.


Processor
Management expressed regret for the lapses
"UKAEA accepts full responsibility for the safety of all staff working in Dounreay and I am very sorry that these events occurred.

"UKAEA has ensured that the three workers involved continue to undergo reassurance monitoring. All three continue to work on site at Dounreay in the same roles."

The authority was fined a further 1,000 for a breach relating to an incident in 1998 when a vehicle cut through an underground power cable in the fuel cycle area.

'Really appalling'

While there was no escape of radiation and no-one was injured, there was a strong reaction from the government and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

New deals to reprocess spent nuclear fuel were stopped and the fuel cycle area was ordered to be shut down.

Mr Welsh said "significant improvements" have been carried out to prevent a repeat of the incident.

However, anti-nuclear campaigner Lorraine Mann said Dounreay's safety record continued to be less than convincing and voiced concern over the level of fine imposed for the second incident.


Controlled area
A digger severed a power cable
She said "The really appalling thing about today's verdict is that (management) were only fined 1,000 for that incident.

"That was an incident that put a huge number of workers in the plant at risk and in fact put the public at risk because they lost all control.

"UKAEA in that particular case tried to shift the blame to the contractors and that to me seems absolutely crazy. The people who hold the nuclear licence for that site are UKAEA."

After continuous bad publicity, management received some heartening news at the beginning of the month when the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee said they had "turned the tanker round" in improving safety.

However, the committee warned that there was much still to be done.

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See also:

29 Mar 00 | Business
BNFL privatisation delay
07 Mar 00 | Scotland
Dounreay safety progress praised
28 Feb 00 | Scotland
Radioactive waste clean-up
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