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Australians Report Small Radiation Leak in Reactor Fire

March 19, 1987|Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — A fire at a nuclear reactor complex south of Sydney released radiation into the atmosphere Wednesday and contaminated two workers, authorities said.

Officials of the New South Wales state government and the Lucas Heights reactor complex 30 miles south of here described the incident as minor.

The shift foreman and an operator were exposed to low levels of radiation but returned to work after cleaning themselves and undergoing checks, Arnold Fleischmann of the New South Wales Health Department said.

The Lucas Heights complex has a small reactor and produces radioactive isotopes for medical, industrial and research uses.

The Australian Atomic Energy Commission said the fire broke out in a "hot cell" used to process medical isotopes. Radioactive isotopes are used as "tracers" to check functioning of organs or follow processes through bodily systems.

The room where the fire started is in a building separate from the nuclear reactor.

"We are very confident on the basis of our measurements to date that the release was well below the limits approved by the state authorities," said Lucas Heights acting director Robert Smith.

Firefighters were called but were not needed because technical staff had sealed off air to the "hot cell" to extinguish the blaze.

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