ANSTO bid to close nearby pistol range riles gun lovers

2018 07 20 22 27 4483 Australian Flag 400

A group of Australian gun owners are up in arms over a proposal by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to close a shooting range that's located near ANSTO's nuclear facility in Lucas Heights, outside of Sydney.

ANSTO has had an agreement with the Endeavour Pistol Club that allows the group to operate its range near the Lucas Heights facility, which among other activities makes molybdenum-99 radioisotopes, the raw material for radiopharmaceuticals such as technetium-99m used in nuclear medicine procedures.

But ANSTO has been performing a review of its safety procedures after molybdenum shipments from its Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor at Lucas Heights were shut down in 2018 after mechanical problems with a transport conveyor at the reactor site.

And apparently, having a gun range near the facility doesn't fit the program.

While the pistol range is located outside the fence of the Lucas Heights facility, "its physical location immediately adjacent to the campus means that it is subject to various security, safety, and environmental plans both within ANSTO and by external agencies," ANSTO CEO Adrian Paterson, PhD, wrote in a letter to Sen. David Leyonhjelm. "Allowing access to the range by armed members of the public -- even with a firearms license -- would alter the site's approved design basis threat."

Paterson goes on to note that while the pistol range was used by civilians prior to September 2001, the security and regulatory environment at ANSTO and within Australia "obviously changed significantly at that time," a reference to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

That decision isn't sitting well with gun owners, however -- nor with Leyonhjelm, who said he thought that "linking a legitimate sporting club to terrorism is not only offensive and wrong, but it also suggests there is a serious lack of understanding about the nature of terrorism," according to an article in Sporting Shooter.

Leyonhjelm has been negotiating with ANSTO about the closure, but the agency has "refused to budge," according to the article.

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