The federal government’s Lucas Heights nuclear medical facility in southern Sydney should be replaced or rebuilt due to safety concerns, an independent report says.
Published on Monday, the report by nuclear experts found there was a “make do and mend” culture at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation site.
The report found the ageing facility failed to meet modern nuclear safety standards.
A replacement facility has been discussed for several years, but plans have been hindered because of federal government budget restrictions, the report said.
While several modifications have been made to the facility, the report found the upgrades can’t resolve all issues.
In August 2017 a technician’s hands were contaminated through two pairs of gloves after he dropped a vial at the Lucas Heights medical facility, exposing him to an elevated risk of cancer.
The incident was the only safety failure in the world rated a ‘Level 3’ event or above in 2017. It was followed by three other less-serious incidents within the next 10 months.
“It should be noted that Level 3 events are regarded as serious events in the nuclear industry and any additional events at this level may result in loss of confidence in the organisation,” the report says.
ANSTO chief executive Adi Paterson said it had become clear since the incident in August last year that safety improvements were needed.
“It’s clear from the incident and this report that we have work to do on both accounts, and for that we are sorry,” Dr Paterson said in a statement on Monday.
The report made 85 recommendations, including that the Australian government commit to a replacement facility as soon as practicable and provide additional funding or find alternative funding for the new site.