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Plutonium shipment discovery inquiry.

THE European Commission has launched an inquiry after a shipment of radioactive plutonium bound for a French nuclear plant, turned up in Oxfordshire.

The plutonium was discovered on Friday by workers at the Croft Company in Abingdon, where secure containers used for carrying dangerous material are routinely maintained.

Although there was no radiation leak or other contamination of people or property, EC President Romano Prodi has ordered a review of procedures to prevent the repeat of "this regrettable incident".

The consignment itself should have been offloaded in Belgium more than a month ago and the incident has raised serious concerns over safety procedures.

It was in the possession of Euratom, the EU's atomic energy body, and was prepared at the Commission's Joint Research Centre in Geel, Belgium, for delivery to the nuclear processing plant in La Hague, France.

But Belgian delays in completing the export paperwork meant the plutonium was still in Geel when the deadline arrived for its secure container's routine maintenance, which is carried out in Abingdon.

With a change of destination, the container should have been emptied while still in Belgium.

But it was subsequently transferred with its plutonium load, to Euratom premises in Luxem-bourg, and then taken by road to Abingdon.

The Belgian and British authorities were told what had happened, and the container is now stored at the Atomic Research Centre in Harwell.
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Author:Jones, Geraldine
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 9, 1999
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