Australian news, and some related international items

Sydney University fined for carelessness with a radioactive device

The fallout of the University’s radiation case, by Bella Gerardi, May 2, 2022,

Last week, the University of Sydney was fined $61,000 for failing to properly dispose of a radioactive source belonging to a decommissioned medical imaging machine. For an institution that claims to have a strong commitment to the environment, conviction of a criminal environmental offence appears at odds with its sustainability strategy.

The source, which contained a sealed radioactive isotope, was found when a truck delivering scrap metals to a recycling yard set off alarms during a routine radiation check. 

Identified as belonging to a PET scanner owned by the University, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged the University with four individual breaches of the Radiation Control Act. The case didn’t go to court as the University pled guilty, and in exchange the EPA dropped two of the four charges. 

So, how did this happen? 

By accident, the court ruled. 

…………… the court noted that if the source had not been detected before entry to the second metal recycling yard, environmental contamination would have been “very likely”. In this scenario, the source would have gone on to be reprocessed, a procedure that would involve breaking the seal of the source and dispersing the material into usable metal. It would have ultimately ended up in consumer material, which the court noted has occurred overseas.

………… It is disappointing, but not surprising, that it took a criminal conviction to reach the safeguards imposed today. Unfortunately, the University’s prior lack of clear procedure is indicative of the broader attitude institutions and corporations hold toward environmental crimes. Environmental crimes are often entangled with accidents, negligence, or oversight, and are often not viewed as holding the same gravity as other offences.

Corporations and institutions are responsible for the majority of environmental harm, yet complex corporate hierarchies make it uncommon for individuals to face repercussions for offences, which in turn promotes a lax attitude toward environmental damage. ………………………………….. more


May 5, 2022 - Posted by | legal, New South Wales

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