SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian authorities found a missing radioactive capsule in a vast remote area on Wednesday, an emergency services official said, after nearly a week of searching along a 1,400-kilometre stretch of highway.
Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson told a news conference the capsule was being checked by the military and would be transported to a secure facility in Perth on Thursday.
“When you think about the scope of the search area, locating this thing was such a huge challenge, the search groups literally found the needle in the haystack,” said Dawson.
The radioactive capsule was part of a scale used to measure the density of the iron ore feed from Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) Godai Dare mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region. The ore was transported to a facility on the outskirts of Perth – a distance longer than the length of Great Britain.
Officials from Western Australian Emergency Response, defense authorities, radiation experts and others combed a section of the highway for the tiny capsule that went missing in transit more than two weeks ago. Read more
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The capsule appeared to have fallen off a truck and landed on the side of the road, officials said, adding that it was
It is unlikely that there will be contamination in the area.
The silver capsule, 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long, contains cesium-137 which emits radiation equal to 10 x-rays per hour.
People were told to stay at least five meters (16.5 feet) away from the capsule if they spotted it because exposure could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness, although driving past it was believed to be relatively low risk, as was taking an X-ray.
Reporting by Louis Jackson. Writing by Praveen Menon; Edited by Christopher Cushing
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