'Tiny but Lethal' radioactive capsule mysteriously goes missing in Australia


Perth (Australia): A tiny but possibly lethal radioactive capsule that was being carried 870 miles (1,400 km) from a mine to a storage in the city of Perth has gone missing, and Australian emergency services are frantically searching for it.

The 8mm by 6mm unit, which is tiny than a penny, is thought to have fallen off the back of a truck on a 22-mile (35-kilometer) stretch of road in Western Australia as it was being transported from the Rio Tinto mine in Newman
to the Perth suburb of Malaga.

As per reports, the device was misplaced when a screw in a sizable lead-lined gauge came loose and fell down a hole. Caesium-137, a highly radioactive isotope that experts claim cannot be weaponized, is contained in the tiny silver cylinder.

According to state officials, the device releases the equivalent of 10 X-rays in an hour, thus people should keep at least 16 feet away from it. Skin damage, burns, and radiation sickness, as well as immune system impacts, could ensue from contact. Continual exposure may potentially result in cancer.

In an effort to identify it, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services has sent out teams equipped with metal detectors and portable radiation detectors. However, because to a lack of equipment, state authorities have requested outside help.

Search crews are focusing their efforts on locations around the Great Northern Highway and in populated areas to the north of Perth.

“What we’re not doing,” said superintendent Darryl Ray, “is trying to identify a small little device by eyesight.”

To find the gamma rays, we are utilising radiation detectors, the scientist explained.

To pinpoint the precise path the driver travelled and the locations of the truck’s stops along the way, authorities are examining GPS data from the vehicle. They worry that the capsule may be hundreds of miles distant from the search area and may be stuck in the tyre of another vehicle.

Rio Tinto did not learn the capsule was stolen until 25 January despite having hired a professional radioactive materials handler to package and deliver it “safely” to the depot.

The Western Australian government didn’t let the public know until Friday after waiting two days. Andrew Robertson, the company’s senior health officer, defended the delay, saying the mine and depot had to be checked and excluded, and the route had to be validated.

“We think the truck’s vibration may have compromised the gauge’s structural integrity, causing it to disintegrate and the source to emerge from it, the man stated. A gauge seldom breaks apart the way this one has,” he said.

“We worry that someone would pick it up, not knowing what it is, think it’s something intriguing, and keep it,” he added.

Since stealing at the depot has been ruled out, police have established that the incident was an accident and that no criminal charges are probable.

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'Tiny but Lethal' radioactive capsule mysteriously goes missing in Australia
'Tiny but Lethal' radioactive capsule mysteriously goes missing in Australia
ASE News
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