Missing radioactive capsule found in Australian outback

Canberra, Feb. 1, 2023 (Xinhua/NAN) A tiny radioactive capsule missing in the Australian outback has been found after days of searching, according to Emergency Service Minister for Western Australia (WA), Stephen Dawson.

Dawson announced at a news conference on Wednesday that the 8-millimeters (mm) by 6-mm capsule was found by search crews in the morning.

The caesium-136 capsule was reported missing late in January, prompting an emergency search along the 1,400 kilometres (km) route of the truck from which it fell off.

It was found by a team from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services south of the town of Newman.

He added that the capsule was being transported to Perth.

“I do want to emphasise that this is an extraordinary result.

“The search crews have quite literally found the needle in the haystack,’’ Dawson said.

The searched vehicle was travelling at 70 km per hour along the Great Northern Highway when specialist equipment detected radiation.

Portable search equipment was than found it two metres from the side of the road.

A 20-metre hot zone has been set up around the capsule, which would be placed into a lead container for transport once it is verified by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Authorities had warned that the capsule posed a significant public health risk, saying that anyone who went too close or touched it without protection could suffer from radiation burns or sickness.

“Once the capsule has been secured, we will survey the site to ensure there is no contamination in the surrounding area,’’ Darren Klemm said, the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner.

“In the extremely unlikely circumstance that the capsule leaks we will remediate the area.’’

The government has launched an investigation into the incident. (Xinhua/NAN)