Australia’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor has safety problems

Nuclear radiation spills spur Lucas Heights review, THE AUSTRALIAN, SIAN POWELL, Higher Education & Science Writer, Sydney SEAN PARNELL-Health Editor, Brisbane @seanparnell

Australia’s nuclear safety agency has ordered a review of Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear medicine facility after two radiation spills, and a separate investigation is under way into a mechanical failure that has caused delays in diagnostic tests across the country.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has had four safety breaches in 10 months and in recent weeks has had to call on US…….

Distribution of the replacement nuclear medicine supplies was also disrupted this month after airline delays from the US prevented the medicine reaching clinics and hospitals for some days……….

The supply problems caused by the mechanical failure have come as a review was ordered by the independent regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and its chief executive Carl-Magnus Larsson, who issued the organisation with a direction under the Aus­tralian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act.

The agency said the independent review it had directed would focus on quality control of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the radio­active agent used in diagnostic imaging.

After the first safety breach when a staff member’s hands were contaminated on August 22 last year, ARPANSA found ANSTO to be noncompliant with its licence conditions, according to a statement from the safety agency.

“Three further events including the latest event on 7 June, 2018, indicate ongoing safety issues at ANSTO Health,” ARPANSA said………

An internal review is being conducted into the conveyor failure on June 22 while the separate independent safety review into the ageing ANSTO facility is ­undertaken.

ANSTO will appoint an independent reviewer. “This appointment is the next step on a path of continuous improvement.

“Using recommendations from the review, we’ll identify what more can be done to make that facility safer,” a spokesman for ANSTO said.

…….The conveyor has been fixed but compliance checks and a thorough audit will keep the production of nuclear medicine at a standstill for some time.

Repairs were originally delayed because ANSTO staff members were forced to wait until radiation levels in the conveyor room fell to a safe level……..https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/nuclear-radiation-spills-spur-lucas-heights-review/news-story/7c5f0c09e7847d8c0265e86c28d1e796

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