On Friday 21 June 2019, ARPANSA was notified of a radiation contamination event at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Nuclear Medicine (ANM) production facility in Lucas Heights, New South Wales.
The ANM facility was only recently licensed to undertake routine operations, on 24 May 2019. This decision was made after ANSTO had taken a year to carry out commissioning tests and comply with ARPANSA’s regulatory requirements.
The contamination event has resulted in accidental radiation exposure to the hands of three employees.
ANSTO’s preliminary assessments indicate that the dose received by two of the employees is approximately two to three times above the statutory annual dose limit for the hands. The exposure of the third employee is expected to be significant but below the statutory annual dose limit.
If the exposures are confirmed to exceed the statutory annual dose limit, ARPANSA will make a notification under the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) at level 2. The INES scale ranges from zero (with no safety significance) to 7 (major accident).
ARPANSA inspectors conducted a visit to ANSTO on the same day the accident occurred and again on Monday 24 June 2019.
Production of nuclear medicine at ANM has ceased and ARPANSA has notified ANSTO that they are not authorised to resume operations at ANM without ARPANSA’s approval. ANSTO must provide ARPANSA with a satisfactory assessment of what happened, why it happened and how they will prevent it from reoccurring.
ANSTO has initiated an investigation and will provide us with an investigation report by 5 July 2019.
ARPANSA will assess the information as we receive it in order to form a view on the safety of ANSTO’s operations and to identify next steps, including any further regulatory actions.