Agricultural research organization stored barrels of radioactive waste for years – report

The national agricultural research organization, the Volcani Center, stored some 25 barrels of radioactive waste for years at its compound in Rishon Lezion in central Israel, according to a report by investigative journalist Uri Blau, published in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

The waste, accumulated over 10 to 15 years, was only discovered during an audit by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in May following an update to regulations on the treatment of hazardous waste.

The ministry ordered the center to immediately have the barrels sent to a designated landfill at the Dimona nuclear research facility in southern Israel, Blau wrote.

According to the report, the public could have been exposed to dangerous pollution if one of the barrels had leaked or caught fire.

He said Volcani Center guards were told the waste was a product of the isotopes H3 (triatomic hydrogen ion), C14 (radiocarbon) and P32 – phosphorus-32. The latter can penetrate up to 0.8 cm (0.3 inch) into living skin tissue.

The ministry said the waste was similar to that found in many hospitals and institutions. “There is and can be no risk in storing this waste on site, and there is no fear of possible harm to the public. This waste does not even increase the background radiation outside the barrels at all, even next to them,” a statement read.

“We emphasize that the barrels were in a designated waste room, as required, and during an inspection carried out during the tour, normal values ​​were measured in the background radiation levels in the area and there is no was no radiation hazard to workers. or citizens on the site.

The removal of this waste depended on the availability of the Dimona site and the only specialized transporter and it had now been carried out, the ministry said.

The Institute said it had notified Environmental Protection Ministry officials of its intention to remove the material, which the ministry agreed to. Most of the radioactive materials used in research were short-lived isotopes that were no longer radioactive after six months, he added, and in all cases new research methods had made use redundant isotopes.

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