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Windscale

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy why the explosion at Windscale on 28th April was not made public; if he will ensure that in future, when similar incidents occur, they will be published; and what steps have been taken to see that incidents such as these do not recur.

This incident occurred during an experiment in a sealed handling facility at a Windscale laboratory. A chemical reaction caused a pressure rise sufficient to force off a plastic waste container attached to a port on the facility, so releasing some plutonium activity into the laboratory.The incident, in which no one was injured, was notified to me under the general arrangements I have made for the reporting of incidents at nuclear installations. These arrangements envisage that details of minor occurrences will be published in a quarterly statement by the Health and Safety Executive; this incident fell into that category.I understand, however, that BNFL has decided that during the course of the Windscale planning inquiry it will make public details of all incidents, however trivial, which it reports to the Government under the procedure referred to.BNFL has instituted an inquiry to decide what action should be taken to prevent a recurrence. Operations in the laboratory have been suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry and the completion of decontamination work.