Olympic Dam Polonium-210 risk: By mass, polonium-210 is around 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide and is extremely dangerous

Today 4th June, 2010, is two years after Greens Mark Parnell accused the Rann Government of failing to protect workers exposed to dangerous levels of radiation at the Roxby Downs Olympic Dam uranium mine, stating: “I sincerely hope that the Government and the company [BHP Billiton] are prepared to aggressively test for radiation exposure, even if it throws up inconvenient truths”.

Two years on Mark Parnell is still persuing the situation.  A whistleblower has now come forward stating that there are not enough safeguards in place at the mine and that workers are still being put at risk of rising levels of radiation that are not being monitored properly. 

Parnell told ABC radio this morning, “the levels of polonium-210 a toxic by-product of uranium production, are above the company’s health standards….

We need to make sure that we’re monitoring all the time, every shift, and it’s most important to make sure that all the tests that are done are independently verified. We can’t just leave it up to the company.”

What is Polonium? Wikipedia

Greens, MLC Mark Parnell, said, the process of smelting uranium is more dangerous at some times of the cycle rather than at others.

PREVIOUSLY: On the 19 June 2008 Greens MLC Mark Parnell  accused the Rann Government of failing to adequately protect workers exposed to dangerous radiation levels at Olympic Dam.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show a poor level of monitoring of radioactive polonium airborne dust. Polonium, a particularly toxic and dangerous radioactive substance, was dramatically used to assassinate Russian defector Ivan Litvinenko in London in Nov 2006.

Despite the significant risk to workers of exposure to polonium, the Radiation Protection branch of the Environment Protection Authority agreed to reduce BHP Billiton’s reporting requirements in 2006. Since then, the number of reports of workers exposed to unsafe levels of radiation has plummeted, despite no change occurring to production processes at the plant, raising serious questions about the level and type of testing currently undertaken by the company.

Parnell stated in June 2008 that the Government was failing in their duty to adequately monitor and protect the health of workers at Olympic Dam.

“Documents I have obtained through FoI, after much struggle, raise serious concerns about how often testing occurs. For example: sampling of airborne radiation levels is not done when workers are at greatest risk, and personal radiation monitoring devices, that often record readings above the allowable level, are only worn part of the time by some, not all, exposed workers”, said Parnell.

“The uranium industry likes to spruik how safe their industry is. If that is the case, why are they so cagey about releasing occupational health and safety information?

“The Government should be asking tough questions about whether enough testing, at the right time, is being done by BHP Billiton. I sincerely hope that the Government and the company are prepared to aggressively test for radiation exposure, even if it throws up inconvenient truths.

“The Rann Government must match its gung-ho support of the uranium industry with adequate protection for workers,” he said.