Australian news, and some related international items

Northern Territory nuclear waste dump needed for nuclear medicine? That’s a Lie

Green, 8 Sept 11,

“As health organisations, we are appalled that access to nuclear medical procedures is being used to justify the proposed nuclear waste dump. Most waste from these procedures break down quickly and can be safely disposed of either on site or locally.”  − Dr Bill Williams, Medical Association for the Prevention of War 

“Linking the need for a centralized radioactive waste storage facility with the production of isotopes for nuclear medicine is misleading. The production of radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine comprises a small percentage of the output of research reactors. The majority of the waste that is produced in these facilities occurs regardless of the nuclear medicine isotope production.” − Nuclear Radiologist Dr Peter Karamoskos.

 Proponents of a national radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory routinely claim or imply that nuclear medicine would be jeopardised if the dump does not proceed. There is no basis to such claims – they amount to dishonest scare-mongering.

Proponents claim that most or all of the waste that the federal government wants to dump in the NT arises from medicine, specifically the production and use of medical radioisotopes. However the true figure is 10-20%.

In any case, the fact that some waste is of medical origin doesn’t mean that a national dump is the best way to manage the waste, much less that a dump ought to be located in the NT.

If the plan for a dump in the NT is defeated, medical waste will continue to be stored at the Lucas Heights reactor site operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and, in much smaller volumes, at hospitals. That is no problem since ANSTO and hospitals continue to produce radioactive waste and thus they have an ongoing need for on-site waste stores and waste management expertise regardless of the options for periodic off-site disposal.

Alternatively, a different site will be found for a centralised waste dump.

Either way, nuclear medicine will not be affected.

If nuclear medicine was the criterion for siting the dump (which it isn’t) and if there was a need for a national dump (which is highly debatable, given the option of ongoing storage at Lucas Heights), the NT would be the last choice because it has far fewer nuclear medicine procedures than any other state or territory (1% of the national total according to Brendan Nelson’s letter to Senator Scullion, 26/7/05; just 0.1% according to an ANSTO, 1993, Submission to the Research Reactor Review) and also the fewest nuclear medicine procedures on a per capita basis (ANSTO, 1993 Submission). If nuclear medicine was the criterion for selecting a dump site, which it isn’t, the dump ought to go in NSW, which accounts for 46% of national nuclear medicine procedures.

The proposed dump site at Muckaty in the NT was chosen on political grounds rather than on scientific and environmental criteria – indeed the site did not even make the short-list when a preliminary study identified eight regions across five states/territories considered ‘suitable’ for further investigation (Bureau of Resource Sciences, 1997). The NT was chosen (and NSW excluded from the start) for the grubbiest of political reasons − the NT does not have the political clout of the more populous states, nor does it have the legal powers of the states.

The incessant references to nuclear medicine to ‘sell’ the dump amount to nothing more than emotive propaganda − which is what critics of the proposed dump are routinely accused of.

More information

‘Nuclear Medicine in Australia: a Joint Health Sector Position Statement’, online at

Joint letter to federal senators from medical organisations, online at

Medical Association for Prevention of War − nuclear medicine section:

Jim Green − nuclear medicine research:

Proposed NT dump: Friends of the Earth:

Proposed NT dump:

March 30, 1712 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina reviews, secrets and lies |

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