Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA warns of "cradle to grave" responsibilities for radioactive sources

Media release: 26 August 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is reminding users of sealed radioactive sources they are responsible from ‘cradle to grave’ after a former textile manufacturer was prosecuted under the NSW Radiation Control Act 1990 and the NSW Radiation Control Regulation 2013.

Universal Dye Works Pty Ltd from south Sydney pleaded guilty in the Downing Centre Local Court to failing to register sealed source devices and disposing of a radioactive substance without consent during the trial held in May 2016.

Executive Director, Hazardous Incidents and Environmental Health Branch, Sarah Gardner, said that Universal Dye Works had a total of six radiation gauges that had never been registered, despite being classed as regulated material under the Radiation Control Act.

“The EPA launched an investigation after scrap metal from the company triggered a radiation detection alarm at a recycling plant,” she said.

“We found a gauge attached to a stenter unit, a machine used in the manufacture of fabric, contained Krypton 85 which is a radioactive substance.”

Radiation gauges can often be attached to stenter units to measure the thickness, weight and density of material by emitting a beam.

Mrs Gardner said that since Universal Dye Works’ offence in 2013 the EPA now issues radiation management licences instead of requiring registration.

“A licenced device meets minimum standards and most will be tested regularly by an expert.”

In New South Wales, there are 2761 Radiation Management Licences and 2319 sealed radioactive sources which are most often used in medicine, research and education but also in other industries like manufacturing and textiles.

Mrs Gardner said that while there was no risk to the community or the environment from the gauge, other sources of radiation could pose a higher risk.

“If you purchase a sealed source, you are also responsible for security while it is in your possession and for its safe disposal.”

“Generally, sealed radioactive sources that are of no further use can be disposed of by returning them to the supplier or manufacturer, or sending them overseas for recycling or reuse,” Mrs Gardner said.

UDW have agreed to pay for disposal of the gauge which is estimated to cost around $10,000. An independent consultant will arrange to send the gauge overseas to be safely destroyed.

Failing to hold a radiation management licence may result in enforcement actions or prosecution with maximum penalties of $165,000 in the case of a corporation or $27,500 or imprisonment for two years or both in any other case.

The judgement, handed down on 5 July 2016, dismissed the charges under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 and ordered Universal Dye Works to pay the EPA’s legal costs of $15,000.

More information about sealed radioactive sources and radiation management licences is available at the EPA website.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has information about the technical and security responsibilities of purchasing a radioactive source.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy.

ENDS

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 26 August 2016