Radioactive Capsule Found In Australia Believed To Be More Deadly If Not Discovered

Radioactive Capsule Found In Australia Believed

A radioactive capsule was recently found in Australia. It was reported missing in Western Australia and was believed to have fallen out during transportation.

It was a huge accomplishment since the capsule that the authorities were looking for is no bigger than a coin. The capsule is a small silver cylinder measuring 0.3 inches by 0.2 inches, But don’t be fooled by its tiny appearance because experts say that if it was not discovered sooner, this sensor could have been deadly. Experts say that this very small radioactive capsule could be potentially harmful to people’s health if they are exposed to it.

The sensor had been loaded onto a truck from the mine and would have been transported from Newman in the state’s far northern region for several days to Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

In an interview with ABC News, Angela Di Fulvio, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explained that the Caesium-137 is a human-made fission project often used in radiological laboratories and industrial settings. This is primarily used within gauges in mining operations.

Authorities have stated that the capsule, contained in its sensor, was transported in a wooden box, which was then bolted to a pallet and loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck. They believe that the sensor came loose from its attachment due to truck vibrations, which then allowed a bolt to fall out of the bottom of the box. The capsule likely rolled off the truck’s surface after falling out of the sensor, through the bolt hole, and onto the road.

The capsule was lost on its 870-mile journey from the Rio Tinto mine in northern Newman to the northeastern suburbs of Perth. This deadly, tiny capsule was discovered on the side of a rural roadway.

Radioactive Capsule Found In Australia

The Associated Press says that officials think a loose screw inside the big lead-line gauge caused it to fall through a hole. Officials said that the capsule’s packaging met all radiation safety standards.

During a press conference, Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said, “When you consider the scope of the research area, locating this object was a monumental challenge, the search groups have quite literally found the needle in the haystack.”

According to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia, emergency responders and radiation specialists were desperately searching for the capsule along a busy freight route. It was not easy since they had to search an area spanning 22 miles through the regions of Pilbara, Midwest Gascoyne, Goldfields-Midlands, and Perth Metropolitan.

In a statement, the DFES explained that search teams had been slowly traveling north to south along the Great Northern Highway to find this capsule. Radiation survey meters were used by DFES’s specialized search teams in order to identify gamma rays and radiation levels.

Darryl Ray, the acting superintendent for Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services, said, “What we are not doing is trying to find a tiny little device by eyesight. We are using the radiation detectors to locate the gamma rays, using the meters that will help us then locate the small device.”

DFES adds that exposure to the radioactive substance could also cause burns or radiation sickness. That is why officials immediately warned the public to stay at least 5 meters, or about 16 feet, away from it, and not to touch the device in case they spotted it.

The state’s chief health officer, Andrew Robertson said that since the capsule was too small, the authorities in Western Australia were worried that someone would pick up the device without realizing what it is and keep it to themselves. And this could cause fatal consequences.

But before the capsule was found, the authorities were confident that even though they knew it might take time due to its size. Officials have said the search might take “weeks not days” not only because of the size of the capsule but also because of the large area that needs to be covered. Still, they’re confident and remain hopeful that it won’t be as difficult as they perceive it to be.

In a further statement, the DFES explains that the capsule was loaded onto a truck on January 10th and shipped to Perth. On January 16th, the delivery truck carrying the sensor made its way to Perth. After nearly two weeks had passed, officials held an emergency news conference to inform the public that the capsule had been lost throughout the course of the 1,400-kilometer journey.

At the news conference, David Gill, a chief superintendent for the Western Australia emergency services department, said, “We want the public to be alert to the possibility of finding the small capsule and the risks.”

According to Di Fulvio, the capsule’s contents were “a million times more active” than laboratory standards. Di Fulvio estimated that the radiation exposure from standing just one meter from the source would be equivalent to receiving around seventeen chest X-rays every hour at a dose rate of 1.665 millisieverts. Fulvio added that if someone had picked up the capsule and put it in their pocket, for example, they could have experienced serious, even fatal, health repercussions within hours.

In addition, Fulvio noted that erythema, or reddening of the skin, would be one of the earliest symptoms of exposure to high radiation and that the consequences would become much more severe with prolonged exposure.

Even though the truck supposedly carrying the capsule arrived on January 16th, it wasn’t until January 25th that they discovered that it had gone missing. The DFES reported when the gauge was taken out of its packaging for inspection, it was broken apart into pieces. The gauge’s radiation source and one of its four mounting bolts were also missing.

In an interview with the local radio station, Dr. Robertson said that “It was literally in pieces.”

According to the Associated Press, the police have determined that the missing capsule was lost through an unfortunate accident. Nobody was charged for the incident. However, the capsule’s packaging and transportation processes will be investigated.


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