Australia's N-reactor pipe ruptures; no threat

The 48-year-old Lucas Heights plant is Australia's only nuclear reactor and produces radioisotopes.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 15:50 IST

Australia's only nuclear reactor suffered a ruptured pipe in a section producing medical isotopes, but there was no radiation leak and no threat to workers or to surrounding areas, the government said on Wednesday.

Australia's conservative government, which is studying whether to set up a nuclear power and enrichment industry, said it had been informed of the incident and an investigation was under way.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which runs the small Lucas Heights research facility on the outskirts of Sydney, said a pipe had ruptured on last Thursday inside a "hot cell" producing medical isotopes.

The 48-year-old Lucas Heights plant is Australia's only nuclear reactor and produces radioisotopes for use in more than 440,000 nuclear medicine procedures each year.

"ANSTO have stated that there was absolutely no radiation threat and no measurable contamination outside the immediate area where the incident occurred or in the community generally," Science Minister Julie Bishop told parliament in Canberra.

ANSTO said one of its workers had been in the area when the pipe ruptured.

"After examination he has been found not to have received any radiation dose," ANSTO said in a statement.

ANSTO said production of the radiopharmaceutical technetium-99m, used in nuclear medicine scans of bones and organs, would be disrupted for about a week.

The Australian Conservation Foundation, an environment group, said the incident was a reminder of the dangers of the nuclear industry.

Australia holds about 40 per cent of the world's known uranium reserves and is a major exporter of the material but has no nuclear power or enrichment industry of its own.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 15:50 IST