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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1691

Question No. 359


Mr Ronald Edwards asked the Minister for Science and Technology, upon notice, on 23 August 1983:

Will he provide an analysis of radiation related hazards and accidents, at his Department's installations and laboratories during (a) 1981 and (b) 1982.


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

(a) There were no radiation related hazards or incidents in my Department's laboratories or installations in this period.

(b) During 1981 and 1982 the following five ionising radiation related incidents were reported within CSIRO laboratories:

(i) in 1981 following a high reading being recorded on a radiation monitoring badge, an experimental officer at the CSIRO Division of Animal Health Laboratories, Sydney, was found to have a concentration of radioactive iodine in the thyroid marginally below the maximum permissible for radiation workers. The cause of the exposure could not be established but it was concluded there had been a spillage and appropriate action was taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

(ii) in 1981 at the CSIRO Division of Soils, Adelaide, the displacement of lead shielding on an X-ray diffractometer, and failure of warning lights, allowed undetected X-ray leakage into a room. A relatively low level of radiation was involved and any immediate effects could not be medically detected. Appropriate remedial action was taken.

(iii) In 1982 at the CSIRO Division of Soils, Adelaide, radioactive phosphorus solution was spilt on to, and soaked into, a wooden bench top. The bench top was taken out of service until the radioactivity had decayed to a safe level. The bench top was subsequently replaced with a stainless steel top to avoid a repetition of the incident.

(iv) In 1982 at the CSIRO Molecular and Cellular Biology Unit, North Ryde, a quantity of radioactive uranyl acetate, which is commonly used as an analytical reagent and bacterial oxidant, was found stored on a laboratory shelf with other chemicals. The material is now held in a shielded storage area. Laboratory staff would not have been over-exposed to harmful radiation.

(v) In 1982 at the CSIRO Division of Building Research, Highett, several unshielded containers of radioactive thorium nitrate were located in a general chemical store. The material had been in store for several years, was surplus to requirements and was subsequently donated to another research laboratory. Although staff had intermittently worked in the area, it was calculated that exposure to harmful radiation would have been below the accepted maximum safe level.

There were no radiation related incidents reported in other statutory authorities within my portfolio for the period in question.