ASN reclassifies to level 2 the incident involving the loss of a package containing medical radioactive fluorine, during a transport operation in Nimes
ASN has reclassified to level 2 rating on the INES scale the incident involving the loss of a transport package containing radioactive substances, which occurred in Nimes on 19 November 2012.
This package, shipped by CIS BIO International, was intended for Nimes University Hospital and contained a radioactive liquid fluorine 18 source for medical use. The office of the Prefect of the Gard département and ASN have published information on their websites to inform the public and specify what to do in the event of the package being found. The package has so far not been found.
The vial initially contained fluorine-18 with an activity of about 20 gigabecquerels (the becquerel being the unit used to measure the radioactivity present in a source). Fluorine-18 is a radioactive element used for diagnostic tests in nuclear medicine, more commonly called “scintigraphy test”. The radioactive half-life of this radioactive element is 1 hour and 50 minutes, which means that it naturally loses half of its radioactivity every 110 minutes. By now, therefore, the vial has lost most of its radioactivity and is no longer a health risk. However, on the day the package was lost, the vial was a significant radiological risk for anyone finding themselves nearby, especially if the source was removed from its package and handled.
On 20 November 2012, ASN’s Marseille division conducted an inquiry to examine the circumstances surrounding this transport operation and gain a clearer understanding of the causes of the loss of the package. It would seem that the transport company did not follow the rules for securing packages and did not use the necessary straps. ASN considers that failure to comply with these basic transport rules is indicative of shortcomings in the safety culture.
The police have been contacted by someone who saw a package by the roadside and they immediately went to the location indicated, but the package was not found despite their investigations.
Due to the loss of a radioactive source which could have entailed a significant hazard and to the failure to comply with basic transport rules, ASN rates this event level 2 on the INES scale (International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale), which runs from 0 to 7 in increasing order of severity.