Second radioactive spill in 10 months at ANSTO

The OPAL nuclear reactor at ANSTO's Lucas Heights science facility.
The OPAL nuclear reactor at ANSTO's Lucas Heights science facility.

There has been a spill of radioactive material at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation facility at Lucas Heights.  

ANSTO has confirmed that a staff member was involved in the spill which is the second such incident at the nuclear facility in the past 10 months.

A quality control analyst working in medical production was involved in the spillage of about one millilitre of the radioactive isotope molybdenum-99 early on Thursday morning, an ANSTO spokesman said.

“The staff member was wearing full protective clothing. An occupational health physicist checked the analyst and confirmed no skin contamination," the spokesman said.

The employee was cleared to go home and returned to work on Friday.

Nuclear medicine production at ANSTO's Lucas Heights facility has ceased pending an  investigation into yesterday's radioactive spill.

Nuclear medicine production at ANSTO's Lucas Heights facility has ceased pending an investigation into yesterday's radioactive spill.

Medical production at the facility has ceased, pending a thorough investigation into the spill, the spokesman said.

"ANSTO is working to minimise impacts on nuclear medicine production.”

ANSTO was keen to stress that Thursday's incident was "very different" from one last August, when a staffer reportedly spilled a quantity of the MO-99 isotope, causing a “significant radiation dose”.

“Tests show the analyst involved in yesterday’s incident did not receive skin contamination,” the spokesman said. 

“ANSTO continues to provide support for the employee involved in last year’s incident.”

The site has had other radiation events, such as one reportedly involving four staff in 2012.

A source told Fairfax Media, however, that employees at the site “are concerned with the most recent number of safety breaches and lack of management support”.

ANSTO said about one in every two Australians will need a dose of nuclear medicine in their lives, with the material used for diagnosis and treatment of various heart, lung, brain and bone conditions, as well as cancer.

  • Fairfax Media