The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) said that it had shut down the medical isotope producing reactor at Lucas Heights in order to repair a mechanical problem that ANSTO said was not related to two recent spills of radioactive material.
The two leaks had previously been describe as unrelated incidents. Last August, a worker spilled an unreported quantity of radioactive molybdenum—99, which resulted in a “significant radiation dose.” In early June, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a spill of the same material had a more positive outcome with the worker involved wearing protective clothing that prevented any skin contamination, according to the occupational health physicist who examined the worker.
The shutdown this week involved no safety-related incident. An ANSTO spokesperson said the reactor was shut down “after a mechanical fault was identified with a piece of equipment.”
The facility is currently undergoing upgrades that are expected to increase capacity from 4,000 doses of Molybdenum-99 per month to 10 million doses per year, which would enable it to meet about a quarter of the world's demand.
The reactors is one of 11 in the world that produces isotopes for medical imaging and treatment, Nuclear Engineering International reported.
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