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September 17, 2018 | by  | in News | [ssba]

There is Radioactivity on Campus, But it’s No Big Deal

Our attention had been drawn to a radioactivity symbol on a door in the Kirk building. However, a university spokesperson has assured us that the signage is no cause for concern.
According to the spokesperson, the waste from scientific experiments is stored in the Kirk building room in shielded containers until the isotopes have decayed. After this, the radioactive material is disposed of as standard laboratory waste.
The radioactive material is very low-grade and cannot penetrate its container or doors and windows. “There is no risk to anyone,” said the spokesperson. Laboratories using material that may be dangerous are subject to the Hazardous Substances Regulations. Radioactive material is subject to its own regulations in the Radiation Protection Act.
Though New Zealand is nuclear-free, this legislation applies only to nuclear-propelled or nuclear-armed vessels, rather than prohibiting the use of radioactive isotopes (or even a land-based nuclear station). There is a broad scientific consensus that small amounts of radioactivity, such as that used by the university, are not dangerous.
Radioactivity is not listed on the university’s Hazard Register, although “use of chemicals” is. Hazards that are in the register include getting objects down from a great height, and getting stuck in a lift.
In regards to the radioactive signage, the Chief Executive Officer of Chiasma, Rory Besaans, said, “it’s probably a lot less exciting than it seems”.
According to a university spokesperson, the chemistry department creates no radioactive waste, and the biological sciences create “very little” waste.
Radioactive material is used to trace and measure activity during experiments. At Victoria, this waste is stored in room 066, on the ground floor of the Kirk building. It is usually kept locked, and can only be accessed by the Radiation Protection Officer and the Science Compliance Adviser.


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