[ RadSafe ] Incident at Auckland Airport, New Zealand

a c mcewan acmcewan at clear.net.nz
Sun Dec 16 16:20:52 CST 2007

The news report indicated the package clearly labelled 'radioactive' was
damaged, perhaps run over by a fork-lift truck. The baggage handlers follow
standard procedures which are to call in emergency services, even though
radioactive packages if properly assembled are designed to withstand
transport accidents. There have been similar incidents in the past in NZ
(and elsewhere) but because of their infrequency, and undue concerns about
radioactivity, over reactions follow. At Dunedin airport some years ago a
dog travelling with cargo felt the need on arrival to lift its leg on a
package as it was led out of the aircraft. The package was an A category
radioactive package. The wet patch was observed and initially assumed to
have come from leakage of the contents, and this led to temporary shut down
of the airport.

Radsafe readers may not be aware that NZ in the 1960s and 1970s had nuclear
power in its electricity supply programme. Nuclear power disappeared from
the plan when natural gas was discovered off-shore in the early 1970s. The
history on nuclear issues in NZ is documented in a book I wrote "Nuclear New
Zealand: sorting fact from fiction", published in 2004 by Hazard Press.

Some details from the back cover blurb follow.
Is New Zealand  'nuclear free'? Has it ever been? These questions are
discussed by the former head of the National Radiation Laboratory Dr Andrew
McEwan in this hard-hitting new book based on a lifetime's involvement in
health physics and nuclear research. Natural sources of radiation are all
around us, and our health system depends on radioactive materials made in
other countries' nuclear reactors, for both diagnostic tests and the
treatment of cancers. As well as this 'double standard' he points out all
kinds of misunderstandings about nuclear power and waste disposal, the bomb
tests, food irradiation, radiation from natural sources, and other

"This book represents an important milestone.  Dr Andrew McEwan, who led the
National Radiation Laboratory for many years, has not only been at the
centre of every scientific study of New Zealand nuclear issues over the last
3 decades, but is by far the best informed New Zealand scientist on the
world history of radioactivity and nuclear radiation. He is a fearless
presenter of fact. This book will help you look beyond the myths and
understand the scientific perspective related to nuclear testing, radiation
and the safety of the nuclear industry. The book is encyclopedic in its
depth of information and insight."  (From the Foreword By Paul Callaghan
FRS, Alan McDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences.)
Chapters of the book briefly review the nature of ionising radiation and the
existence and levels of naturally occurring radiation. Chapters are devoted
to past plans for nuclear reactors in New Zealand, accidents that have
occurred globally and their effects, risks associated with nuclear powered
ships and the enquiry conducted in New Zealand, the effects of nuclear
weapons tests, and investigations carried out at weapons test sites of
particular concern in New Zealand such as Mururoa. Further chapters consider
industrial radiation plants and existing plants and proposals in New
Zealand, the transport of fissile and radioactive materials, the issue of
radioactive wastes, and miscellaneous radiation sources and events of
interest in New Zealand. A chapter is also devoted to non-ionising radiation
sources, and reviews concerns about microwave ovens, power lines and cell

(Hazard Press went into receivership earlier this year and remaining copies
of the book are available from the author.)

Andrew McEwan

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