February 22, 2006

UK Hospital Waste Truck Leaks Radiation

This week, a private nuclear materials handling firm in the United Kingdom apparently neglected to install a protective "plug" on a cask of radioactive hospital waste being transported by truck across Northern England, causing the cask to emit high levels of radiation during transit. "By pure chance," the radiation beam pointed downwards, away from other vehicles, and no injuries were reported. From the Telegraph UK:
A highly radioactive beam was emitted from a protective flask as it was driven 130 miles, for three hours, across northern England on a lorry, a court heard yesterday....The flask belonging to AEA Technology was being used to transport a piece of decommissioned cancer treatment equipment from Cookridge Hospital, Leeds, to the Sellafield complex, Cumbria on March 11, 2002.

A judge was told how the container was "found to be emitting a narrow beam of radiation, of a very high dose rate, vertically down from that package base". [read full article]
The radiation dose rates reportedly "were in the order of 100 to 1,000 times above what would normally be considered a very high dose rate and measurement was beyond the capabilities of normal hand-held monitoring equipment." The company responsible for handling the cask's transport, AEA Technology, "a privatised arm of the UK Atomic Energy Authority," has allegedly admitted to a series of recent safety breaches. The company was due to be fined in a court proceeding in connection with an earlier safety violations, but the court has delayed setting the final judgment in light of this new incident.

More details at The Australian and BBC News Online.

No comments:

Post a Comment