I am pleased to present to you the 2016–17 Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) Annual Report.
This is the eighth report since my appointment and the first that builds on our new brand. The rebrand was undertaken in order to position the agency for the future, and seek to raise greater awareness and understanding of ARPANSA’s role and services. The brand was built by staff and represents how we see ourselves and how we want to add value to the Australian community. As part of the rebrand we launched a new visual identity which is most noticeably expressed on our new website.
Plans for a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) are progressing under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. ARPANSA, as the independent regulator, is responsible for the licensing of any future NRWMF. International experience has demonstrated that early visibility of the regulator in affected communities – before an application for a licence is received – is a prerequisite for establishing trust in the licensing process. During the year, our engagement activities with various community groups and leaders enhanced the visibility of the regulator and made ARPANSA’s technical experts and leaders available to answer questions from interested members of the public.
Our invitation for an International Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission, coordinated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), demonstrates our commitment to good regulation and transparency. During the year we commenced our self-assessment in preparation for receiving the IRRS Review Team in 2018. It is highly satisfying that we have the commitment from all jurisdictions to participate, making this the first international review of our national system for radiation protection and nuclear safety.
The potential for radiation exposures, incidents and accidents is always present, despite stringent regulatory requirements. We continue to promote good safety culture among our licence holders. Nationally, we have seen an increased reporting of incidents to the Australian Radiation Incidents Register, which I interpret as a response to our encouragement of a good reporting culture, not as an increase in unsafe practices.
Over the course of the year we have successfully promoted radiation protection of workers and the public though our services. Our Radiation Protection Services processed 171 000 optically stimulated dosimeters; tested 2100 sun protective materials; and issued over three million ‘swing tags’ on consumer products with information on their sun protection properties. Further, the Australian National Radiation Dose Register (ANRDR) now holds dose records for over 38 000 workers. As we move into the next financial year we will pilot an expansion of the ANRDR in to the medical sector.
We have also performed 1550 diagnostic reference level surveys and the Australian Clinical Dosimetry Service has successfully transitioned to a new user-pays service model. These activities support the safe use of radiation in medicine – the largest source of radiation exposure of the Australian population.
ARPANSA’s capabilities for responding to radiation and nuclear threats and emergencies were tested through participation in a 36 hour IAEA Convention Exercise, known as ConvEx-3. This was the first full-scale exercise of this type for ARPANSA. Eighty countries, ten international organisations and five Australian federal government agencies and partners participated in the exercise.
We undertake significant international engagement and work closely with international organisations, including as the Competent Authority under several international conventions. This year, ARPANSA led the Australian delegation to the 7th Review Meeting under the terms of the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
Looking ahead to the 2017–18 financial year, we will continue our NRWMF engagement activities and expand our reach to communities surrounding two new recently proposed sites. ARPANSA’s review of a licence application from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation to operate a Nuclear Medicine Facility is well underway and a decision will be made in the first half of the financial year. Finally, a new linear accelerator will be acquired and installed to support ARPANSA’s calibrations and dosimetry audits. This will enable ARPANSA to continue its quality assurance for the 50 000 Australians treated for cancer with radiotherapy every year.
The next year thus brings with it significant projects for ARPANSA and I am confident that our dedicated and expert staff will continue to demonstrate that we are Australia’s leading authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety.
CEO of ARPANSA