Workers exposed to unsafe radiation at Sydney nuclear facility
Production has been halted at a newly opened nuclear facility in Sydney’s Lucas Heights after two workers were exposed to an unsafe amount of radiation.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has confirmed production was stopped at its $168 million nuclear medicine facility after three of its staff were “attended to by radiation protection personnel” following a contamination on a container carrying Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) on Friday morning.
Initial assessments found that two of those workers were exposed to “a radiation dose above the statutory limit”.
“Early calculations indicate that the radiation dose received by two of the workers involved in medicine processing was equivalent to that of 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.”
The spokesperson said an investigation is underway, and the manufacturing of their Mo-99 would take place at other facilities in the meantime.
The incident came less than two weeks after ANSTO was granted a licence to enter into full production of Mo-99, which is the parent isotope of Technetium-99m used in hospitals and nuclear medicine centres to diagnose a range of heart, lung, organ and muscular-skeletal conditions.
It is the second contamination scare at the Lucas Heights facility in recent months. In March, three employees were taken to the hospital after being exposed to a sodium hydroxide spill.