Nuclear Contamination Scare Down Under

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 @ 04:10 PM gHale

There was another contamination scare at Lucas Heights nuclear facility last week in southern Sydney, Australia.

The scare comes the same week a report released recommending immediate action to review safety procedures at the site.

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The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) confirmed five workers received a dose of radiation, but it was not above allowable limits.

In a statement, the organization said the equivalent dose of radiation was less than a chest X-ray.

“I can confirm there were no incidents yesterday that resulted in radiation levels going above allowable limits set by the regulator, ARPANSA, and in fact there were no incidents at all, in any building, that triggered a need for immediate report to the regulator,” a statement released by ANSTO said.

“ANSTO informed the regulator as a courtesy.”

The Australian Manufacturers and Workers Union (AMWU) said five employees working in the industrial handling bay inside building 23 ended up contaminated by an airborne iodine isotope.

The AMWU said one employee had been sent for thyroid scans, and another had to shave part of his beard off as it was carrying contaminates.

The scare came in the same week as a report into the aging facility found it failed modern nuclear safety standards, and needed to be replaced, after another worker ended up exposed to radioactive material last year.

The union said the latest contamination incident was a result of comprehensive and repeated failures to protect the safety of workers at the site.

“ANSTO workers do vital work, they have the right to perform this work safely,” said AMWU New South Wales and ACT secretary Steve Murphy.

“We are seeking emergency meetings with ANSTO management to resolve this issue.”

The Lucas Heights facility produces radioisotopes for medical and industrial purposes, including diagnostic imaging.

A worker was exposed to hazardous material after dropping a vial in an area of the facility known as building 23 in August last year.

The event was deemed the most serious in the world in 2017, according to the International Nuclear Event Scale.

A review conducted by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPNSA) following this incident, found two buildings at the site — 23 and 54 — were relatively old “legacy” facilities designed to meet 1950s-era standards, “and therefore may not fully meet modern standards of nuclear design, safety and operational workflows.”

ARPNSA made 85 recommendations, and directed ANSTO to “take immediate steps to initiate an independent review of the approach to occupational radiation safety of processes and operational procedures in B23.”



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