Missing radioactive capsule found in Western Australia

Australian authorities have found and secured a missing radioactive capsule deep in Western Australia (WA) after a week-long frantic search.

the capsule is It is filled with cesium-147, which emits radiation equivalent to ten x-rays per hour. It was Wednesday morning local time, two meters off the Great Northern Highway near Newman.

“I want to emphasize that this is an extraordinary result,” WA Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“The search party literally found a needle in the haystack.”

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Agency and Fire and Emergency Services crews found the silver capsule. A radiation survey meter to detect gamma rays and radiation levels to locate the capsule.

It has been placed in a lead container and is being transported to Newman for safe storage overnight before being taken to the WA Health Facility in Perth on Thursday.

Epoch Times photo
An image of a small round silver capsule containing radioactive cesium-137, acquired on January 27, 2023. Lost in transit between mining sites north of Newman and northeast Perth on 10-16 January. (AAP Image/Courtesy of Washington State Fire and Emergency Services Department)

The device is placed in a 20-meter “hot zone” to keep the public out of radiation from the material.

“In just seven days in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, this excellent result is a testament to the close cooperation of all the agencies that have come together to ensure the safety of WA.

“We thank the community for listening to our safety advice, submitting suggestions, and reporting information that we believe may be helpful to our search efforts.”

The potentially dangerous radioactive capsule, just 6 mm wide and 8 mm long, is believed to have fallen from a truck that traveled 870 miles from the Rio Tinto mines in northern Washington to a storage facility in Perth.

“It is very rare for a source to be lost,” said Western Australia’s chief health officer, Andrew Robertson, in a statement.

Potentially Harmful Tiny Capsules

Authorities warn to stay at least 5 meters away from the silver capsules, but experts say driving past the capsules is dangerous because exposure can cause radiation burns and radiation sickness. It says the risk is relatively low, just like taking a line.

“Because it emits both beta and gamma radiation, contact or proximity can cause skin damage, including skin burns … and prolonged proximity can cause acute radiation injury. There is a possibility,” said Robertson.

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Western Australia Chief Health Officer Andrew Robertson at a press conference at Dumas House, Perth, Australia, February 4, 2021. (Matt Jelonek/Getty Images)

“Our concern is that someone picks it up without knowing what it is and thinks this is something interesting. [and] Keep it up… I don’t know what they’re really dealing with. “

Although the capsules cannot be weaponized or destroyed to spread radioactive material, they can cause cancer, Robertson warned.

Rio Tinto statement

The capsule left the Rio Tinto mining site on January 12 and was reported missing January 25th. The instruments were disjointed, and one screw and bolt was missing, likely loosened by truck vibration. Inspectors believed the capsule fell through a hole and fell out of the truck.

The public received a warning about missing capsules about two days later.the package is In accordance with radiation safety regulations.

Rio Tinto said it was aware the disappearance was “clearly of great concern” and apologized for the alarm it had caused in communities in Western Australia.

“Rio Tinto engaged a third-party contractor with the appropriate expertise and certifications to securely package the devices for off-site transport prior to receipt at our Perth facility,” it said. Simon Trott, Head of Iron Ore Division at Rio Tinto, said: statement on Monday.

AAP contributed to this article.