Stop Hinkley Press Release

18th April 2007

Were organs secretly removed from Hinkley workers in post-mortems?

Organs of former nuclear workers at Hinkley Point may have secretly been removed and tested for radiation during a thirty year period up to the early nineties.

The Radio 4 Today programme (See Below) has revealed that nuclear workers at Sellafield and other nuclear sites had organs and tissues removed from their bodies at post-mortems, apparently without the knowledge or permission of their relatives. This occurred from 1962 to as late as 1992. Stop Hinkley campaigners are asking whether Hinkley workers were subject to this process.

Alistair Darling , Minister for the Department of Trade and Industry, announced the launch of an inquiry into the matter, prompted by calls from the GMB, a trade union representing nuclear workers.

Asked for his reaction to the scandal, Dr Chris Busby of Green Audit who studies health effects of radiation, said: "It was commonplace at that time to remove organs to monitor for radiation but equally shocking was that ordinary members of the public also had organs removed to test for plutonium near nuclear sites. A scientist called Popperwell discussed this in three internal papers he wrote in 1988 for the National Radiological Protection Board (See Note Right)."

Jim Duffy spokesman for Stop Hinkley said: "The Alderhay Inquiry shocked everyone by reporting that organs were secretly removed from children at post-mortems. Now we're discovering similar secrecy over nuclear workers and lack of consent or even knowledge of the process by their relatives. Many local families will be concerned by this news and deserve to have answers."

Jim Duffy' Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 07968 974 805

Dr Chris Busby: 07989 428833

NB: The NRPB is now known as the Health Protection Agency Tel: 01235 831600

BBC Radio 4 Today programme 18th April 2007

Sellafield inquiry to be launched

An official inquiry is to be launched into claims nuclear workers who died in the 1960s and 1970s had body parts removed without consent.

The GMB union says samples were taken from up to 70 former employees at Sellafield in Cumbria .

British Nuclear Group, which owns Sellafield, confirmed autopsy material had been used for "legally correct" purposes such as inquests.

Trade secretary Alistair Darling will make a statement to MPs at 1240BST.

He is expected to appoint a lawyer to lead an independent investigation into the claims.

These included tissue, bones and body parts removed without permission, it is claimed.

GMB National officer Gary Smith said: "Our chief concern is for the families of those who died during this period and the anguish they face.

"We need information from the company and we expect a quick reply to clarify what has happened."

Inquiry call

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: "The prime concern is the feelings of the families.

"There are clearly a number of matters that need investigating dating back to the 1960s."

Prospect, which represents workers at Sellafield, also called for a public inquiry after claiming that from the early 1960s until the early 1990s vital organs were removed from the bodies of former workers who had died from cancer.

The union said organs were removed from more than 60 workers at several BNFL sites, as well as workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston.

In a letter to BNFL it said the only way to counter concerns was for the company to clarify its policies and actions at an independent public inquiry.

'Historic issue'

General Secretary Paul Noon said: "We don't want to rush to judgment but we do want the facts.

"Removal of organs from deceased radiation workers without consent would be ethically, morally and possibly legally wrong. Whatever the motives it should not have happened."

A spokesman for BNFL said: "This is an historic issue not a current one, however our prime concern is the feelings of the families of those involved.

"The sampling of autopsy material began in the 1960s and ceased in the early 1990s.

"Files exist at Sellafield for 65 cases. An examination of the data has shown that in 56 of those cases the sampling was done associated with coroners' post-mortems or inquests.

"In five other cases it was done under instruction from other legally correct bases, such as family solicitors.

"For the remaining four cases there is no record of instruction or consent on file although this does not mean that appropriate requests were not made."

Stop Hinkley Logo

Extracts from NRPB Radiological Protection Bulletin July 1986
by D S Popplewell

"From time to time since 1972 we have measured the plutonium content of tissues taken post mortem from people who had worked in the plutonium-processing industries including some from Sellafield Works in Cumbria.

As part of the programme we wished to compare these results with the tissue plutonium concentrations of people who had not worked in the nuclear energy industries.

Accordingly we commenced a series of plutonium analyses of tissues removed post mortem from members of the general public, who might be expected to have received their body deposits of plutonium from fallout from explosions of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere."

"Autopsy tissues were obtained from Scotland , north-eastern England , Oxfordshire and western Cumbria .

The subjects were at least 50 years old at the time of death. ......Attempts were made to ensure that the subjects had not been occupationally exposed to plutonium, though often this information was not available.

The major sites of plutonium deposition in the body are bone, liver and lung (after inhalation), therefore these were the organs selected for analysis......"

Elsewhere, reports also show that tissue samples of young people in traffic accidents were removed to assess radiation levels in the general population.

Once again the nuclear industry is found out over its sly secrecy and evasion of ethical ground rules.