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Liquid Wastes at Lucas Heights

Building 57 has 6 cubic metres of intermediate level liquid waste which is held in stainless steel tanks. The waste is a by-product of the manufacture of radio-isotopes and it contains significant amounts of alpha, beta and gamma activity.

The Safety Review Committee (SRC), in 1988, highlighted this as "a hazard with potential for off site consequences which must be corrected". The SRC has expressed its concern in each of its annual reports since then. After nine years ANSTO has not been able to rectify the problem. In its report for 1996-7 the SRC complained that progress in the development of a method to solidify this waste was unacceptably slow. When will this area be made safe?

Low level liquid wastes were dumped in the Woronora River until 1980. Due to community objections this ceased and they are now held in tanks until radioactivity has reduced. It is then passed, via the sewer system, to the sewage outfall at Potter Point, Cronulla.

If reprocessing is carried out on the Lucas Heights site, liquid waste will increase greatly. The same problems associated with the European reprocessing plants will the come to the surface here. It is no coincidence that the Sellafield and Dounreay reprocessing plants in the UK and La Hague in France are built on the coast. This allows them to dump great volumes of radioactive liquid into the ocean. Neither is it coincidence that the sea and the beaches around them are polluted and that the incidence of child leukemia in each area is well above the national average.

Even if reprocessing does not go ahead the projected increase in the manufacture of radioisotopes from a new reactor would increase the liquid by-products many times. Such liquid wastes present the greatest problem arising from the operation of our nuclear reactor.

ANSTO claims that the amount of radioactivity contained in its liquid emissions are too slight to cause any harm but the cumulative effect, over many years, is not taken into consideration.
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