Production of nuclear medicine at ANSTO’s nuclear medicine (ANM) facility[1] was halted on 21 June following an accident in which the hands of three workers were exposed to radiation. Two of the workers received a dose that exceeded the statutory annual dose limit for the hands. ARPANSA has given the accident a preliminary rating of Level 2 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, INES[2].

ARPANSA instructed ANSTO to not resume operations until ARPANSA had assessed how and why the accident happened, and reviewed ANSTO’s own assessment of the accident including their proposed controls to keep workers safe.

On Friday 5 July, the CEO of ARPANSA restricted production in the ANM Facility to a level that can satisfy the domestic demand for nuclear medicine only.  ANSTO was authorised to recommence production with this restriction from 6 July.

The CEO’s decision was informed by previous safety events during nuclear medicine production at ANSTO as well as ARPANSA’s review of the circumstances around this accident, including the sequence of events, effectiveness of controls and contributing factors.

The CEO has stated that ANSTO must direct its attention to a number of safety issues, with particular focus on organisational and human factors such as production pressure, situational awareness and leadership and management for safety.

ANSTO must allocate sufficient resources to address safety as a priority above the demands of production. Production will remain restricted until ARPANSA has noted demonstrable progress and is satisfied with workers’ safety.  

ARPANSA is continuing its investigation into the causes and contributing factors of the accident.  A formal decision on whether there has been a failure on ANSTO’s part to comply with conditions of the ANM licence is pending.

Read more: Contamination event at ANSTO Nuclear Medicine facility


[1] The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) operates the ANM Facility at Lucas Heights in the south of Sydney.

[2] The INES scale rates events from 1 (anomaly) to 7 (major accident)


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