December 1999

EU to change procedures after plutonium shipment

Reuters news service (EU), November 29, 1999

[Posted 06/12/1999]

BRUSSELS - The European Commission blamed human error and weaknesses in communication and organisation, for a shipment of plutonium being mistakenly sent to Britain from a European Union research centre in Belgium.

The EU's executive said it would immediately put in place new procedures to avoid a repetition of September's incident, which it said had at no time involved any risk to human health.

The European Union's Institute for Reference Material and Measuring in Geel, Belgium, from where the shipment originated, would revise its operating procedures, improve external audits and improve staff training, the Commission said in a statement.

Until the changes have been made, no deliveries of nuclear materials will be allowed without the explicit authorisation of the institute's director-general, it added.

September's incident, in which a container with 0.69 grams of plutonium was inadvertently sent via Luxembourg to a company in Britain, had prompted European Commission President Romano Prodi to express concern and launch an investigation.

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