Missing radioactive capsule found after days of search

Missing radioactive capsule found after days of search

In Australia, a missing radioactive capsule caused an uproar for days – now the authorities have given the all-clear. This is where she reappeared.

After days of searching, experts in Western Australia have found a radioactive capsule that had fallen off a truck. Response teams discovered the tiny and very dangerous capsule about 50 kilometers south of the mining town of Newman, broadcaster ABC reported on Wednesday, citing the region’s government.

The casing, just a millimeter in size, fell out of its container while being transported from a mine north of Newman to a depot near the city of Perth. Since then, specialists have been using detectors to search the 1,400-kilometer route. The media had written that the undertaking was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The incident happened sometime after January 12th. It was not noticed until January 25, when the truck was unloaded, that the capsule was missing.

Radiation detectors in use

The Authority for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Arpansa) recently got involved in the search. The agency had sent experts to the west of the country to help with the search for the tiny capsule with special equipment, the broadcaster 9News reported on Wednesday. Among other things, they were used with radiation detectors on vehicles.

A small silver capsule containing radioactive cesium-137 was lost en route from a mine site to Perth. (Source: -/Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA via AAP/dpa/dpa-pictures)

“We need to look at how these capsules are transported,” said Emergency Services Secretary Stephen Dawson. “It’s beyond me how something like that could fall off the back of a truck.” The British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto had already apologized for the incident. The corporation operates the Gudai Darri mine, from where the capsule was transported.

It is assumed that a bolt in the container came loose due to the vibrations during the journey and the mini-casing fell through the bolt hole. The loss of the capsule containing the highly radioactive cesium-137, measuring just six by eight millimeters, had caused great concern in Western Australia given the very dangerous material. Anyone who discovers something that looks like a tiny capsule should keep a distance of at least five meters, they said.


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