AN INQUIRY has been launched into the removal of body tissue from 65 nuclear workers including one former employee at Capen-hurst near Chester.
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, to investigate trade union claims permission was not sought to remove tissue, including bones and body parts.
Mr Darling told MPs: 'Most of the employees concerned worked at Sellafield. One worked at the Capenhurst site but had transferred from Sellafield.'
He confirmed the workers, all dead except one, had been employed between 1962 and 1991.
The inquiry will ask why tissue was taken, if next of kin were told and if proper procedures were followed.
Sellafield's owner British Nuclear Group, formerly BNFL, says tissue was taken for 'legally correct' purposes.
Mr Darling said: 'We owe it to the families as well as to the general public to find out what happened and why,' he said.
Of the samples, 23 were taken following a coroner's request, 33 after a post mortem, 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.
BNG spokesman Ben Todd said: 'BNG welcomes the independent investigation ... and we will give it our full support.
'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.'
A helpline has been set up on 01946 774017.
BNG is engaged at Capenhurst to decommission a redundant nuclear enrichment facility and associated buildings.
Urenco Capenhurst Limited 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 re-use in the nuclear fuel cycle.
Fuel enrichment at Capenhurst dates back to the 1950s originally for defence purposes. Plant was converted in the 1960s to commercial production for civil programmes.