AN INQUIRY has been launched into the removal of body tissue from 65 former nuclear workers including one from the Capenhurst plant.
Trade Secretary Alistair Darling has appointed Michael Redfern QC, who led the investigation into the removal of children's organs at Alder Hey hospital, Liverpool.
He is to investigate trade union claims permission was not sought to remove tissue, which included bones and other body parts.
Mr Darling said in a statement to MPs: 'Most of the employees concerned worked at Sellafield. One individual worked at the Capenhurst site in Cheshire but had transferred from Sellafield.'
He confirmed the workers, all deceased except one, had been employed between 1962 and 1991.
The inquiry will look into why tissue was taken, whether next of kin were told and if proper procedures were followed.
Sellafield's owner British Nuclear Group says tissue was taken for 'legally correct' purposes.
In many cases the tissue was removed at the request of a coroner and used to investigate the effects of radioactive material, said Mr Darling.
'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,' he said.
Mr Darling described Sellafield's records as being of 'limited nature'.
Of the samples, 23 were taken following a coroner's request, 33 after a post-mortem examination, three were associated with legal proceedings and one was a biopsy from a living person. In four cases there is no information about how the request came about.
BNFL spokesman Ben Todd said: 'BNFL welcomes the independent investigation which has been announced by the Secretary of State and we will give it our full support and cooperation.
'We remain very sympathetic to the feelings of our current and past employees and their families and we are working closely with union representatives on this aspect of the issue. This remains our priority.'
British Nuclear Group is engaged at Capenhurst to safely decommission a redundant nuclear enrichment facility and associated buildings.
Urenco Capenhurst Ltd continues to operate a centrifuge enrichment business on the site.
Also, Capenhurst houses modernised and upgraded facilities in a former diffusion plant to store uranic materials prior to their long-term re-use within the nuclear fuel cycle.
Fuel enrichment at Capenhurst dates back to the 1950s originally used for defence purposes. The plant was converted in the 1960s to commercial production for civil programmes.
A helpline has been set up for those who feel they may be affected. You can contact 01946 774017.