UN agency reports inspectors contaminated at Belgoprocess

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The UN nuclear agency says three people have been exposed to radiation and had to undergo decontamination after a mishap at a Belgian waste facility.

The IAEA said in a statement on Wednesday one of its inspectors, along with a EURATOM inspector and a Belgoprocess staffer were on a routine tour of the facility when the incident occurred.

The inspector, along with an inspector from EURATOM and a Belgoprocess employee, apparently received a dose of radiation after a vial or flask of plutonium accidentally fell on the floor, according to releases from the company and the Belgian Federal Nuclear Control Agency (AFCN).

“The three individuals evacuated the area and have undergone external decontamination procedures and medical checks,” the IAEA said in a statement. “They are now being assessed to determine the level of their radiation exposure.”

“Belgian authorities have reported that the incident area has been sealed off and no radioactivity has been released to the environment,” it added. “Decontamination of the facility is expected to begin soon.”

Public fears about the safety of nuclear energy rose worldwide after the Fukushima power plant accident in Japan in March, the worst such disaster in 25 years.

Last month, a furnace exploded at the Marcoule nuclear waste treatment site in southern France, killing one person, but there was no leak of radioactive material outside the furnace, France’s ASN nuclear safety watchdog said.

Belgoprocess was founded in 1984 and handles all levels of nuclear waste from across the country. Its services include storage, decontamination, and waste processing.

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