Human error causes nuclear crisis in Fleurus

3rd September 2008, Comments 0 comments

A series of technical and human errors brought about the delayed reaction to the radioactive leak in Fleurus last week, says Belgian Energy Minister.

3 September 2008

BELGIUM -- The Institute of Radioactive Elements (IRE) in Fleurus near Charleroi, made a major error in dealing with the leak of radioactive material last week, said Energy Minister Paul Magnette.

In the minister’s findings of a first investigation into the incident, he said the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control (FANC) also made a serious mistake by reacting too late.

"There was a series of technical and human mistakes in detecting and dealing with the situation," says Magnette. "It is incomprehensible and unacceptable."

The IRE which manufactures lightly radioactive material used in treatments for cancerous tumours reported of a radioactive iodine leak last Sunday.

Due to a defect with the computer that measures the emissions of the chimney, the company did not discover that there was an accumulation of radioactive iodine and that some of it leaked out on Friday 22 August 2008.The computer defect was only discovered Sunday morning.

A company technician first misread the analysis of the defective computer. The alarm was raised only on Monday.

Magnette demands a review of the situation and the security system. He is asking for sanctions against those responsible for the breach.

The minister also said the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control (FANC) took too long to react to the situation and take measures. Production at the company was halted two days after the incident was reported and residents of Fleurus were advised not to eat vegetables from their gardens a couple of days later.

Even though the entire incident is not a threat to public health of Fleurus residents, the energy minister says the response to the situation was inadequate. He has ordered an external investigation.

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