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Tuesday, 23 August 1983
Page: 107

Question No. 244


Mr Staples asked the Minister for Science and Technology, upon notice, on 26 May 1983:

Are the standards of microbiological security being built into the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong, Victoria, the highest in the world ; if so, are those systems already commissioned meeting the standards required for the safe operation of the laboratory.


Mr Barry Jones —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Yes.

Commissioning has been in progress as parts of ANAHL have been structurally completed. Elements of the building that will be critical for security and which are commissioned have been the steam raising plant, which is essential for providing steam for sterilisation purposes; the diesel generators, which will provide power should power from the State Electricity Commission be discontinued for any reason; and the air compressors, which are vital to security because compressed air is used for sealing airtight doors, for moving automatic valves and for providing air to the fully-enclosed suits worn by personnel handling high-risk infective agents.

All of these systems have performed to the high standards required of them. A microprocessor control system which was developed by the Department of Housing and Construction for controlling a regime of negative air pressures within the high-security areas of the laboratory has been adapted to control all of the major items of engineering equipment and has been patented worldwide. Considerable confidence in this control system was built up during eighteen months of testing on a prototype constructed at Port Melbourne, and this has been vindicated by the excellent results that have been obtained from its application to the steam raising plant, boilers, compressors and the plant for providing chilled water.

CSIRO is very confident that ANAHL will provide a level of security over and above that determined to be necessary for the laboratory to operate continuously in a safe manner.