Nuclear Workers – Statement to the House
Nuclear Workers – Statement to the House
The Rt. Hon. Alistair Darling MP, Former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
House of Commons, 18 April 2007
With your permission Mr Speaker, I should like to make a short statement on the examination of tissue taken from some individuals who had worked in the nuclear industry and who died between November 1962 and August 1991.
Mr Speaker having regard to the feelings of the families of those concerned and because it is in the public interest, I want to provide the House with the information available from BNFL who now operate the Sellafield site where these examinations were carried out. I shall then set out how I intend to proceed with this matter.
Most employees worked at Sellafield but one individual worked at the Capenhurst nuclear site in Cheshire, and had transferred from Sellafield.
In addition, there is data but not medical records at Sellafield relating to an employee at the Springfields nuclear site in Lancashire and 6 at Aldermaston.
BNFL which holds the relevant medical records tell me that to date they have been able to identify 65 cases in which tissue was taken from individuals which was then analysed for the radionuclide content of organs.
It is important to tell the House the limited nature of the records that are held by BNFL.
These are medical records which show what analysis was done on organs removed following post mortem examination.
Because they are medical records which dealt with the analysis carried out at Sellafield they do not provide an audit trail which would show in every case who asked for such an examination under what authority and for what purpose. Nor do they disclose whether or not the appropriate consent from next of kind was received.
Some records have more information than others, but at this stage it is simply not clear what procedures were followed in every case.
From the information I have I can tell the House that 23 such requests for further examination and analysis were made following a coroner’s inquest. A further 23 requests appear to follow a coroner’s post mortem. 3 requests were made associated with legal proceedings and there was 1 request made associated with legal proceedings and there was 1 request made by an individual prior to death.
It is assumed, therefore, that these requests were made to help establish the cause of death in the normal way. In many cases this would be part of the coroner’s inquiry. But we cannot be sure of that because there is not an audit trail to establish that as a fact.
Mr Speaker there was a further single request made following a biopsy of a living individual.
In respect of a further 4 causes I understand that the records do not record by what mechanism the request for the analysis was made.
It is clearly important to establish why these requests were made and for what purpose.
It is also clear that the data obtained from these examinations has been used in other studies which were subsequently published.
One of the questions that arise is therefore whether or not it was appropriate to use the data gathered for this purpose.
Mr Speaker it follows from what I said that the records held by BNFL do not disclose whether or not the next of kin knew of these examinations and analysis. That is something that needs to be established.
Most cases appeared to come following a coroner’s request. It is possible therefore that in some cases there was such knowledge. But it is not at all clear that even if they had known about the analysis they would have been aware that data gathered was then used as part of wider research studies. However, it will be necessary to examine the coroner’s records to find out what the position was.
Mr Speaker, BNFL tell me that they believe that the tissue would have been destroyed. Certainly, BNFL tell me that no such tissue exists today. However, they are not certain at this stage what procedures were followed.
The House will appreciate that some of these cases go back 45 years. It is simply not possible therefore today to be sure whether procedures were carried out properly. The information held by BNFL as I have said necessarily limited and a full investigation is therefore necessary.
I believe that it necessary to establish why these examinations were carried out and whether or not the next of kin were informed and consented to this analysis.
It is also necessary to establish whether or not these examinations were carried out following the correct and proper procedures and whether the data obtained was used appropriately and with the necessary consents.
The families and the public will want to know the answers to all these questions.
I have therefore asked Michael Redfern QC, who conducted the ‘Royal Liverpool Children’s Inquiry at Alder Hey’ to carry out an independent investigation into this matter. I have asked him to establish the facts, and to report to me. This report will be published. I will inform the House of the full terms of reference shortly.
Mr Speaker this is clearly a difficult situation covering events that took place up to 45 years ago. Nonetheless we owe it to the families as well as to the general public to find out what happened and why.
Crown copyright 2007
BBC on the Scandal
16 November 2010 Last updated at 19:07 GMT
Sellafield body parts families given government apology
The Redfern Inquiry was ordered when it emerged in 2007 that tissue was taken from 65 workers at Sellafield in Cumbria between 1962 and 1992.
Publishing the report, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said it was “regrettable” that organs were taken
Mr Huhne told the Commons the inquiry found there was a “lack of ethical consideration of the implications of the research work” carried out by the nuclear industry.
The same the world over.
Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry
Volume 234, Numbers 1-2, 171-175, DOI: 10.1007/BF02389767
Actinides in Biological and Environmental Systems
Analysis for actinides in tissue samples from plutonium workers of two countries
R. E. Filipy, V. F. Khokhryakov, K. G. Suslova, S. A. Romanov, D. B. Stuit, E. E. Aladova and R. L. Kathren
Radiation research on humans staged in Richland
By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer
RICHLAND — The rows of freezers in a new metal building near the Richland airport hold tissue samples from the women who used radioactive radium in the 1920s to paint the glow-in-the dark dials of watches and clocks.
With them are organs waiting to be processed and tissue samples from their more recent counterparts — former DOE nuclear weapons workers, including those at Hanford, who were exposed to radioactivity on the job and later volunteered to donate their bodies to science when they died.
Shelves hold boxes filled with organ samples dissolved in acid and preserved for future research. Other boxes hold bones, potentially contaminated, that have been turned to ash
It’s the nation’s collection of physical evidence amassed to provide clues to how exposure to actinides such as plutonium and uranium affect the human body — the goal of the U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries.
The program is operated by the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and paid for with grants from the Department of Energy. Programs at different DOE sites were consolidated in Washington in 1992