ANSTO workers exposed to unique occupational risk

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday July 1, 2019

Source: Getty Images

Three employees from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) have been exposed to radiation at the Nuclear Medicine (ANM) production facility in New South Wales.

Two of the employees received a radiation dose that is roughly two to three times above the statutory annual dose limit, which is equivalent to a conventional radiation therapy treatment, an ANSTO spokesperson said.

“An occupational physician will continue to provide ongoing observation. All three workers involved are receiving ongoing support from ANSTO,” they said.

“An estimate of the radiation dose will be confirmed in coming weeks.”

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) will note the incident as level 2 under the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale if the exposures are confirmed to exceed the statuary limit. The scale ranges from zero (no safety significance) to seven (major accident).

A spokesperson for ANSTO said the contaminant involved, Molybdenum-99, which is used to diagnose a variety of heart, lung, organ and muscular-skeletal conditions, is no longer being manufactured at ANM.

The facility was only licensed to produce the nuclear medicine in May.

ARPANSA has told ANSTO they cannot resume operations at ANM without approval and must provide an assessment of what happened, why it happened and how they will prevent it from reoccurring.

An investigation is underway and a report will be released by 5 July 2019.

ARPANSA will identify the next steps, including any further regulatory actions.

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