19 Sep 2009

Residents fear radiation from new cyclotron

9:45 am on 19 September 2009

People living near Moa Point in Wellington are angry they were not consulted about a plan to install a cyclotron in their suburb.

The cyclotron is a machine that creates a radioactive particle to detect cancer. The plant would be the first in New Zealand.

At the moment, all the particles used in New Zealand are flown in every day from Australia.

Consent for construction of the plant that will house the cyclotron was issued by Wellington City Council on a non-notified basis, meaning the public was not told about the application.

Moa Point resident Martyn Howells says he found out about the plant only when he saw a group of construction workers around the corner from his house.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says the cyclotron will pose no danger to residents.

She says residents did not need to be notified because there will be no detectable radiation outside the plant.

She says a cellphone omits more radiation than the plant will. Even in the event of a natural disaster, she says it will pose no danger to the public.

Pacific Radiology Ltd chairman Trevor FitzJohn says the cyclotron runs on electricity and only the liquid isotope it creates, which is injected into the patient, is radioactive.

Only six patients per day can get the isotope at Wakefield Hospital, but Dr FitzJohn says 20 people could receive it if a cyclotron is installed in the capital.

Moa Point resident Marlene Mulholland says that while she can see the benefits of the cyclotron, she simply does not trust the council when it says people wont be affected.

For Mr Howells , it's the lack of even basic communication from the council that bothers him - even if the machine itself is regarded as safe.

Engineers are currently testing the site for ground contaminants, before construction begins.