A Belgian nuclear research plant faces severe sanctions including the sacking of its senior security officer, after a series of blunders led to a radioactive discharge. The laboratory, at Fleurus, produces cancer-fighting isotopes. Ten days ago, radioactive iodine escaped, and soil tests showed excessive contamination. Critics say only then did the authorities issue a ban on vegetables and milk produced nearby.
Belgium’s nuclear control agency called it a “serious incident,” and Energy Minister Paul Magnette is demanding answers:
“I want a new security chief at the site, because there has obviously been serious control failure,” he said. “I am also proposing substantial penalties; I want a complete report from the management as to what happened.”
The Minister revealed the catalogue of errors. First, a technical fault vented the iodine into the air. Compounding that, the computer alarm system was broken, and the duty technician thought it was a simple filter problem and did nothing.