Issues arise at nuclear lab
A review has found a number of issues at a 1950s-era nuclear medicine lab in south-west Sydney.
The independent expert review said the Lucas Heights facility fails modern nuclear safety standards, and has a culture of “make-do and mend”.
The review was triggered by incident at the facility in August last year which was classified as a Level 3 event in the International Nuclear Event Scale.
A technician dropped a vial while trying to de-cap it, contaminating his hands through two pairs of gloves. The worker suffered blisters and a heightened risk of developing cancer.
This came before three other “near misses” at the same building in the months that followed.
The review team also identified a toxic culture at Lucas Heights, despite a series of changes implemented in 2010 to improve it.
“There is a perception amongst many that recent events have served to reverse many of these improvements such that the culture and morale within ANSTO Health, in particular, has significantly deteriorated,” the review said.
Claims of widespread bullying also emerged, with nearly 20 per cent of ANSTO staff interviewed saying they had “experienced bullying” in the prior six months.
Staff reported that executives did not have a grasp of all the difficulties they experienced.
Lucas Heights is run by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and chief nuclear officer Hefin Griffiths says the lab will continue to operate.
“At the moment it could not be shut down without ceasing production of nuclear medicine for domestic supply in Australia,” Mr Griffiths said.
“While we recognise the building doesn't meet modern standards, we wouldn't operate a facility that posed an ongoing risk to staff members.”