The UK government may have violated nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) following revelations that the country lost radioactive materials more than 30 times in the past 10 years, local media reported.
The revelations were made under the freedom of information act, when Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) unveiled papers saying ‘radioactive materials have gone missing from businesses, hospitals and universities more than 30 times in the past 10 years’.
The papers revealed by the HSE, the UK government’s safety watchdog, list some big names in British industry as amongst the culprits including Rolls-Royce Marine Power Operations in Derby, which makes the reactors for Britain’s nuclear submarines, The Guardian reported.
According to the report: ‘small pellets of highly
radioactive Ytterbium-169 were lost from the Rolls-Royce marine division, while a 13kg ball of depleted uranium went missing from the Forgemasters steel works in Sheffield, The Royal Free hospital in London lost caesium-137 used in cancer treatment’.
A report into the incident found that it “had the potential to cause significant radiation injuries to anyone handling [it] directly or being in the proximity for a short period of time.”
In another case, materials containing caesium-137 were lost on a North Sea oil rig by the oil services firm Schlumberger.
While at the site of the former atomic energy research center at Harwell near Oxford, cobalt 60 was found under a tube store under a machine during clearance.
Earlier this year a small canister of iridium-192 was stolen from a van in Lancashire, but was later found at a nearby retail park almost a month later.
“The unacceptable frequency and seriousness of these losses, some with the potential for severe radiological consequences, reflect poorly on the licenses and the HSE regulator. I cannot understand why it is not considered to be in the public interest to vigorously prosecute all such offences,” John Large, an internationally consultant to the nuclear industry, told the paper.
“Such slack security raises deep concerns about the accessibility of these substances to terrorists and others of malevolent intent,” he said.
“Some of these radioactive sources are very persistent, for example the Royal Free hospital’s lost caesium-137 has a half-life of around 30 years, so it remains radio-toxic for at least 10 half-lives or about 300 years,” said Large, who led the nuclear assessment risk for the raising of the destroyed Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in 2001.
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