I REFER to the article by Col Brown in the May 6 edition of the Catholic Leader which argued against nuclear power. It also raised unwarranted concerns about secrecy and cancer risks at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) – previously the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
ANSTO is a publicly funded agency which manages Australia’s only nuclear reactor and is based in Sydney’s south, producing lifesaving radiopharmaceuticals and conducting world-class nuclear science to help mankind understand the structure of various materials at the atomic level. The research has implications for treating disease like heart disease and cancer. ANSTO also carries out important environmental research into climate change, air pollution and water sustainability.
ANSTO is very conscious of its need to act openly and transparently to overcome any perceptions of secrecy especially in relation to health and safety matters. When the debate commenced just over a decade ago as about whether a new research reactor should be built, ANSTO set a goal to ensure that the Sutherland Shire community knows as much as possible about its operations and gains a better knowledge about the safety of nuclear science and its applications.
Cardinal George Pell, who visited ANSTO last year, was so impressed that he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph on 4 February 2007: “There are no secrets about the activity at the plant, which is visited by thousands of people…..Lucas Heights makes a health contribution comparable to that of one of our capital city hospitals….”
A key unsubstantiated claim Brown made was that leukaemia contracted by a reactor worker was caused by radiation exposure. In fact, studies conducted in the 1990s by the NSW Cancer Council and others found that there was no evidence of any abnormal occurrence of leukemia or other cancers in areas near ANSTO. Indeed cancers rates for workers were below the national average.
ANSTO has an excellent safety record and holds regular meetings and communication with the local community, covering issues identified by Brown such as waste management and emergency planning. ANSTO publishes annual reports on the impact of its operations on the surrounding environment and residents, which show that the radiation received from our operations is a very small fraction of the radiation received every day by all of us from natural sources. ANSTO also conducts public tours, details of which are on our web site.
In terms of advice on nuclear issues, ANSTO has a responsibility to provide accurate information on the peaceful applications of nuclear science, including nuclear power, so that Australians can be better informed. We will continue to do that.
Dr Ron Cameron
Acting Executive Director
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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