Radioactive capsule goes missing in Western Australia

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Search operations continue as a tiny capsule containing radioactive substance went missing in Western Australia.

The casing which contains a small quantity of radioactive Caesium-137 could cause serious illness if touched.

It is said that the capsule was lost in mid-January between the town of Newman and the city of Perth, over a distance of roughly 1,400 kms (longer than the length of Great Britain)!

Authorities have warned the public to stay away from the capsule if they see it.

As per the sources, the capsule was mislaid between 10-16 January when it was being transported on a truck between a mine site north of Newman in the Pilbara region and the north-eastern parts of Perth. Caesium-137 is widely used in mining operations. 

“Even though the capsule cannot be weaponized, it can cause radiation burns and possess other longer term risks like cancer,” says the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DEFS).         

Dr Andrew Robertson (Health chief and Radiological Council chair) said that the object emits a “considerable” amount of radiation. He fears that somebody will pick up the capsule not knowing what it is. There will be dire consequences if someone thinks it is something interesting and keeps it in his/her room or gives it to a friend!

An illustration of the object has been released by DFES, it measures 6mm by 8mm.

Thorough searches are being done at the sites where the transportation began and ended. Inorder to narrow down the field of search, efforts are being made to figure out the exact route and stops. 

Anyone who sees the object is requested to call the DFES. In case, a person has come in contact with the capsule, he shall seek immediate medical assistance! 

Nuclear body joins the search!

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has joined the hunt for the radioactive capsule! 

The ‘capsule’ was part of a gauge which was used to measure the density of iron ore feed. Rio Tinto Ltd had given the responsibility of transporting the gauge via truck to a specialist contractor; the capsule is believed to have fallen from the truck.

A deployment team with specialized car-mounted and portable detection equipment has been sent by ARPANSA to support the search team.    

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services leads the search and is supported by radiation experts.

An alert was issued by Western Australia state emergency officials to motorists along Australia’s longest highway.

Currently the team is searching along Great Northern Highway by driving north and south directions at low speeds.

In the order of events, the gauge was picked up from Gudai-Darri mine site on 12th of January. However the gauge was found broken apart when it was unpacked for inspection on January 25th. Mounting bolt and screws were missing.

Officials suspect that the radioactive capsule from the gauge would have fallen out of the package due to the vibrations from the truck.

Officials are on high alert and the hunt for the capsule continues!

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Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

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