ANSTO finalises action plan in response to independent safety review

The ANSTO campus at Lucas Heights. ANSTO has released an update into its action plan in response to an independent safety review.
The ANSTO campus at Lucas Heights. ANSTO has released an update into its action plan in response to an independent safety review.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has finalised its action plan in response to an independent review. 

In October this year, ANSTO, based at Lucas Heights, released a safety review of the health approach to occupational radiation safety and operational procedures. 

The report stated that the ageing nuclear medical facility should be replaced or rebuilt because of safety concerns.

It found that the 1950s-era facility did not meet modern nuclear safety standards.

An incident at the facility — building 23 — occurred in August last year, and was deemed the most serious in the world in 2017.

A technician was exposed to radioactive material that contaminated his hands through two pairs of gloves after he dropped a vial, exposing him to an elevated risk of cancer.

It was the only incident at the time that was classified as a Level 3 event in the International Nuclear Event Scale.

This was followed by three other “near-miss” incidents within the next 10 months.

The report made 85 recommendations, including that the federal government make a commitment to addressing the concerns by funding a replacement facility, or find a new site, which is estimated to be about $210 million.

ANSTO chief executive Adi Paterson said at the time that the current building could safely operate for up to another 10 years. 

On Monday, December 3, ANSTO released an update, acknowleding that the report was “significant, with recommendations wide-ranging.”

“[ANSTO] spent eight weeks considering the review’s recommendations and implications,” a spokesperson said.

“As such, and in line with the direction from the independent nuclear regulator, ARPANSA, ANSTO is currently finalising the development of a robust action plan that addresses the review’s recommendations.

“ANSTO’s response and action plan will be finalised and sent to ARPANSA on December 4, within the agreed timeframe.

“Once the regulator has reviewed and accepted the documents, they will be publicly released – the expectation being before Christmas.

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