Australian home declared safe after “radioactive” material discovered

Australia’s border police raided a home and declared the area safe in the south of Sydney on Thursday after finding “low level radioactive isotopes,” a statement from Australian emergency services said. 

The home, in the suburb of Arncliffe, was the target of an early morning raid and “specialist crews located low level radioactive isotopes, commonly used in several industries, at the location,” Fire and Rescue New South Wales said in a news release. 

Tape surrounds a building after the Australian Border Force raided an apartment block amid media reports that “nuclear isotopes” had been found, in Sydney, on August 17, 2023. 

DAVID GRAY / AFP via Getty Images

“Three occupants of the address were taken to a hospital, purely for observation. There was no evidence of exposure. Other residents nearby, evacuated as a precaution, have since safely returned to their homes,” the news release said. 

The material was found in suitable and effective containers, with no release of radiation, according to the statement. 

The small brown-brick apartment building had been cut off from the road on Thursday morning by red and yellow tape saying “Contaminated area – do not enter – hot zone”.

Earlier on Thursday, the Australian Border Force (ABF) had refused to confirm media reports about the presence of radioactive material at or near the property.

“The ABF can confirm it is conducting an operation today in Arncliffe, New South Wales, with the support of … emergency services,” a border force spokesperson said in a statement. “All appropriate safety measures are being implemented. People in the vicinity of the location are urged to follow all directions from emergency services.”

Sam Abraham, 19, was trying to get home when he came across the closed road. “It’s scary finding uranium in your neighbour’s house, you come into the street and there’s police,” he told Agency France-Presse. “It’s not something that usually happens in Arncliffe.”

Nemr Khamis, 60, told AFP, “In the morning, I heard the loud trucks and all that stuff. I looked out of the window and I saw the ambulance and the fire brigade.

“Then I had to come out and look, then I went inside again. I had a shower and came back and when I came back I had a baby with me and the police told me to go inside.”

Khamis phoned relatives who told him “‘There’s some uranium in the street just off the unit,”’ he said.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency had also refused to confirm the presence of nuclear material.

“ARPANSA will continue to support relevant state and federal agencies in the ongoing management and resolution of the situation,” a spokesperson said.