“As health organisations, we are appalled that access to nuclear medical procedures is being used to justify the proposed nuclear waste dump. Most waste from these procedures break down quickly and can be safely disposed of either on site or locally.”
— Dr Bill Williams, Medical Association for the Prevention of War
“Linking the need for a centralized radioactive waste storage facility with the production of isotopes for nuclear medicine is misleading. The production of radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine comprises a small percentage of the output of research reactors. The majority of the waste that is produced in these facilities occurs regardless of the nuclear medicine isotope production.”
— Nuclear Radiologist Dr Peter Karamoskos.
Proponents of a national radioactive waste facility (a repository for lower-level wastes and a co-located store for higher-level wastes) claim or imply that nuclear medicine would be jeopardised if the facility does not proceed. There is no basis to such claims – they amount to dishonest scare-mongering.
Proponents claim that most or all of the waste that the federal government wants to dispose of or store at a national repository/store arises from medicine, specifically the production and use of medical radioisotopes. However, measured by radioactivity, the true figure is just 10-20%. Measured by volume, the figure may be within that range or it may be higher than 20% ? but it takes some creative accounting to justify the claim that most or even all of the waste is medical in origin.
In any case, the fact that some waste is of medical origin doesn’t mean that a national repository/store is the best way to manage the waste.
If the plan for a national repository/store does not proceed, medical waste will continue to be stored at the Lucas Heights reactor site operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and, in much smaller volumes, at hospitals. Some waste is used in hospitals and then sent back to ANSTO (e.g. molybdenum ‘cows’ that have been ‘milked’ of the daughter radionuclide, technetium-99m ? by far the most commonly used medical radioisotope). That is no problem since ANSTO and hospitals continue to produce radioactive waste and thus they have an ongoing need for on-site waste stores and waste management expertise regardless of the options for periodic off-site disposal.
Nuclear medicine is not being adversely affected by the absence of a national radioactive waste repository/store. Nuclear medicine will not benefit from the creation of a national radioactive waste repository/store.
The incessant references to nuclear medicine to ‘sell’ the proposed radioactive waste repository/store amount to emotive propaganda and scare-mongering. Ironically, that is what critics of the proposed national radioactive waste repository/store are routinely accused of!
Jim Green B.Med.Sci.(Hons.) PhD
Friends of the Earth, Australia
A longer version of this paper is posted at www.nuclear.foe.org.au/dump-medicine