AUSTRALIA: The disappearance of a ‘radioactive capsule’ that has been missing since mid-January in Western Australia, between the cities of Newman and Perth at a distance of 1400 km, has sparked concerns in the area. A lot of teams are on a mission to search for this capsule.
The capsule-transporting truck left the Rio Tinto mine on January 12 and arrived in Perth on January 16. The capsule was discovered missing only nine days later when the secure housing was opened.
The outer shell of this capsule contains a tiny amount of radioactive cesium-137, commonly used in radiation gauges, that fell from a secure device in the truck. The length of this dangerous capsule is 8 mm, with a width of 6 mm.
Due to truck vibrations, the bolt that held the lead-lined gauge, which contained the capsule, loosened during the journey.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services in Western Australia announced on Sunday that it was bringing new equipment that could be mounted on vehicles, a step up from handheld sensors, to help locate the capsule along the 1400 km journey from its origin.
Superintendent Daryl Ray said a search team was looking in the most crowded areas north of Perth and at locations along the Great Northern Highway. He added that radiation detectors are used to detect gamma rays by following the exact route that the driver took.
“What we’re not doing is trying to find a tiny little device by sight,” Ray said.
There is widespread concern that the capsule may have become entangled in another vehicle’s tyre and been transported hundreds of kilometres from the search location.
Andrew Robertson, Western Australia’s chief health officer, defended the state government’s decision to wait two days to reveal this to the public on Friday.
Police have established that this incident was an accident, so no charges are likely. The authorities also ruled out the possibility of theft as the anti-tampering tape was used to bind the box.
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