Australian news, and some related international items

ANSTO can afford to help China build new reactors, but apparently not to maintain its own building safely

How come, if ANSTO is so cash-strapped, that its CEO Dr Adi Paterson, can find the money to join with China’s SINAP in developing  Thorium Molten Salt Reactors?,12488#.XJWdhxDqitc.twitter


Federal budget leaves ‘urgent’ rebuild of Sydney nuclear facility up in air, By Carrie Fellner, April 4, 2019 The Morrison government has failed to provide the $210 million needed to decommission an “unsafe” nuclear medicine facility at Lucas Heights, with money only provided towards a business case in this week’s federal budget.

The decision has sparked concern for public safety, after an independent panel of experts found the building did not meet modern nuclear safety standards and called for its urgent replacement last October.

“The lack of a permanent replacement solution … is undermining the possibility of truly effective risk control,” the reviewers found.

Known as “Building 23”, the facility – built in the 1950s – has been dogged by accidents and near-misses in recent years, including a radioactive spill in 2017 that was then classified as the most serious incident in the world.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is responsible for maintaining Building 23.

Tuesday’s federal budget sets ANSTO’s 2019-20 funding at $354.9 million, which includes more than $56.4 million for the support of nuclear medicine production.

Money to plan for the replacement of the building must be drawn from a bucket of $26 million given to ANSTO for the “maintenance of ageing infrastructure”, according to an ANSTO statement.

The same money must also cover the management of spent nuclear fuel and waste and planning for the production of nuclear medicine in the future.

Minister for Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the funding given would allow “the development of a business case to consider options to secure the long-term and sustainable future of Australia’s nuclear medicine supply”.

“The funding will enable proactive maintenance work and equipment upgrades to support the ongoing operations of the nuclear medicine production facility,” she said.

But Labor slammed the government’s decision not to provide the full amount to replace the building, arguing it was “clear it is no longer fit for purpose”.

“Despite warnings from ANSTO, and the recent independent report, the government has not made public any plans to replace or upgrade Building 23,” opposition spokesman for science and research Kim Carr said.

“As a matter of public safety, we expect that the government should act on this matter.

“A Labor government would live up to its obligations to secure a safe working environment for all employees.”

A spokesman for ANSTO welcomed the overall funding increase of $112.4 million since the previous financial year, and said the budget had made provision “to start the necessary planning work” for the replacement of Building 23, to occur “over a five- to 10-year horizon”.

“Regarding Building 23, it is typical practice around the world, including Australia, that nuclear facilities are both planned for, then operated, over horizons of many decades,” the spokesman said.

The most serious of the accidents at the building occurred in August 2017, when a worker suffered blisters after a vial of radioactive material spilled onto his hands. The employee received a “significant radiation dose”, elevating his risk of cancer.

There were a further three incidents within the following 12 months.

They prompted an independent review, which found Building 23 failed to meet modern nuclear safety standards and warned of a “make-do and mend” culture.

A replacement facility had been in the pipeline for several years but plans had been hindered because of federal government budget restrictions, the review found.

“Heightened expectations and then subsequent failure to secure backing for replacing this
ageing facility has led to frustration, disappointment and cynicism amongst the staff,” it said.

The review made 85 recommendations, including that the Australian government commit to a replacement facility as soon as practicable.

According to the regulator – the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency [ARPANSA] – an implementation plan to address the rest of the recommendations is still under development.

ANSTO submitted a draft of the plan to the regulator last December, but is yet to receive approval.

An ARPANSA spokeswoman said the organisation had “demonstrated progress” towards addressing the recommendations.

“However [it was] felt that ANSTO did not provide sufficient detail around the objectives and strategies that would achieve the desired improvements and safety outcomes,” she said.

The organisations were in “frequent communication” and it was anticipated the plan would be approved in coming months.

“Twenty actions responding to the recommendations in the report have already been completed,” the ANSTO spokesman added.

April 6, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety

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