October 1999

BNFL Sacks three over Safety Checks

Independent, 7 October 1999

[Posted 07/10/1999]

BRITISH Nuclear Fuels said on 6 October it has sacked three workers from its Sellafield reprocessing plant for allegedly falsifying checks on nuclear fuel rods, as revealed by The Independent last month.

The dismissal follows an investigation by BNFL into allegations that some of its workers have falsified manual checks on the mixed oxide (MOX) fuel rods, which were destined for export to Japan. BNFL discovered that some of the safety checks on the fuel rods had been copied from previous checks to avoid the laborious checking process.

A company spokesman said: "We can confirm three people have been dismissed following allegations of data falsification relating to the production of MOX fuel in the MOX Demonstration Facility. We are unable to comment further on this particular issue as the individuals concerned still have the option to appeal.

"The three workers were suspended last month while an investigation was carried out into the allegations that 22 manual checks on batches of uranium and plutonium mixed-oxide fuel rods had been falsified. An official from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate visited the Cumbrian plant after being alerted by The Independent when we reported that a BNFL quality control team noticed checks on batches of the fuel rods may have been falsified.

Each rod contains more than 1,000 cylindrical pellets and about 200 pellets in each rod have to be routinely sampled and measured at three points to check they are of the correct size. Most of the high- security classified MOX fuel is exported abroad from Sellafield, for use in nuclear power plants. Each consignment is shipped in armoured vehicles with armed escorts.

Two shipments of the fuel rods on their way to Japan when the investigation began were checked by Japanese officials on their arrival there and were found to be not affected, a BNFL spokesman said.

Back to contents