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Western Australia: Where is the tiny radioactive capsule?

Status: 01/29/2023 7:20 pm

Since January 25, authorities in Western Australia have been searching for a small radioactive capsule – 1400 kilometers away. Their radiation is a concern. But I don’t know if she can be found.

A search is underway in Western Australia for a millimeter-sized radioactive capsule that appears to have fallen from a truck while being transported to a depot near Perth, 1,400 kilometers from the mine. According to television broadcaster ABC, the missing capsule was only discovered when the truck was unloaded on January 25 – although the transport took place between January 10 and 16.

Western Australia Deputy Premier Roger Cook said the loss of the tiny six-by-eight millimeter capsule was particularly concerning because of the highly dangerous material. The Western Australian Department of Health informed the public on Friday evening. Andrew Robertson, the region’s health officer, issued an emergency warning. Anyone who finds a small capsule should keep a distance of at least five meters.

Radiation like ten x-rays in an hour

The capsule contains radioactive cesium-137. It emits significant amounts of radiation, Robertson pointed out. At a radius of one meter, this is up to ten X-rays per hour. According to Robertson they emit beta and gamma rays. “If you get too close to her, it can cause skin damage, including skin burns.” In addition, the risk of serious damage to health, such as radiation sickness, increases with prolonged exposure to radiation. The health official posted a picture of the capsule on Twitter.

According to television broadcaster ABC, the capsule is part of a radiation meter that is commonly used to measure radioactivity at oil and gas processing plants. Such devices are also used in mining. Iron ore is mainly mined in the area around the town of Newman, where transportation began.

Missing equipment hampers search

Using portable radiation and metal detectors, fire and rescue teams searched 36 kilometers along the busy freight line. Officials used the truck’s GPS data to determine the exact route and locate stops. Motorists traveling on the Great Northern Highway have been asked to check their tyres. The capsule may have stuck and gone to other parts of the country. Officials cautioned that there was no guarantee the capsule would be found.

A lack of equipment is hampering the search, App News reported. Therefore, other countries were requested to provide suitable equipment for the search.

Rio Tinto, the mining company that operates the mine, said it had hired a company specializing in radioactive transport to pack and transport the capsule. Deputy Prime Minister Cook said he could not decide whether Rio Tinto should be held responsible for the incident.

Search for a radioactive capsule in Australia

Jennifer Johnston, ART Singapore, 29.1.2023 at 8:13 pm