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Nuclear safety on campus

By Meaghan Whelan

After extensive consultation with the university community, the Department of Health and Safety will be rolling out a new a new radiation safety management system this month.

The new system is just one module of a comprehensive suite of health and safety initiatives that will be introduced in the coming months. In September, the department will be holding sessions for permit holders to introduce them to the new system and their responsibilities.

The introduction of the new system, which has been under development since 2010, is timely.

Earlier this summer, an inspection by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) found the university to be in non-compliance of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

The CNSC report outlined 24 incidents of non-compliance in the nine laboratories inspected. These incidents include items such as an out-of-date inventory system, radiation warning signs inappropriately posted, out-of-date user lists and unauthorized personnel having access to storage areas containing nuclear substances or radiation devices.

None of these incidents involve any risk to human health.

Memorial has responded to the CNSC with an action plan to bring the university into compliance.

Additionally, the university has conducted a complete and accurate inventory of open and sealed sources, laboratories, users and radiation safety training, performed inspections of all internal permits as requested by the director general, Directorate of Nuclear Substance Regulations, CNSC, and provided a plan of corrective actions to address the specific items of non-compliance found during the CHSC inspection.

"This is an issue that Memorial is taking very seriously," said Mr. Kent Decker, vice-president (administration and finance) at Memorial University. "The Department of Health and Safety is working closely with permit holders to ensure compliance with the legislation and we are committed to rectifying this situation."

Sheila Miller, director of the Department of Health and Safety said the new system represents a fresh page for Memorial.

"Everyone will be trained to the new program, and there is a clear expectation that all permit holders who use radiation will comply with the system," she explained.

"At the end of the day, everyone is accountable. If the new system isn't followed, it can and will affect everyone's ability to conduct their research. Possession of a Nuclear Substance and Radiation Device license is a privilege, not a right."

The new radiation safety program includes a manual outlining direction and process, step-by-step safe work procedures, guidelines around the use of different isotopes, standardized forms and a document control process. More information on the program and the upcoming sessions will be sent to all radioisotope permit holders within the coming weeks.

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