Dounreay In Human Tissue Checks

The operator of a Scottish nuclear site has begun checks on whether body tissue was removed from deceased ex-workers without the consent of their families. It follows claims that samples were taken from former Sellafield employees who died in the 1960s.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) said it was looking into whether there was any connection to Dounreay. Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said the removal of tissue from 65 Sellafield workers would be probed.

He told the Commons he had asked Michael Redfern, QC, who conducted the Alder Hey inquiry into the removal of organs from children, to investigate the claims. British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which owns Sellafield, confirmed that autopsy material had been used for “legally correct” purposes such as inquests.

Responding to a call from John Thurso, Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, for the inquiry to investigate other nuclear installations, Mr Darling said he had no record that any of the cases were connected to Dounreay.

However, the Prospect union has called for that inquiry to be extended to the site. It said it was unclear whether a similar practice had taken place at Dounreay, a former experimental reactor facility, in Caithness.

Asked if the practice at Sellafield happened at Dounreay, a Prospect spokesman said: “We are equally as concerned to establish that ourselves.” He said body tissue may have been transported from other sites to be stored at Sellafield.

The GMB union, which had claimed that samples were taken from up to 70 former Sellafield employees who died in the 1960s, said Dounreay had not been brought to its attention. However, a spokesman said an inquiry would “double check” if the site was involved.

John Walford, who worked at Dounreay in the 1950s and was head of its health and safety division for 10 years until he retired in 1990, said he was not aware of body tissue being removed from former workers without consent, or being stored at the facility.

He told BBC Scotland: “There was a very small handful of people known to me who bequeathed their bodies after death for medical research and this happens of course in the population at large.”