Australian authorities have launched an extensive search for a small radioactive capsule believed to have fallen from a road train (a truck with multiple trailers) that traveled 1,400 km through Western Australia. Here’s what you should know:
what is that?
The silver capsule was just 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long and was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore supplied by Rio Tinto’s RIO.AX remote Gudai-Darri mine.
How did you get lost?
Packed by a professional contractor, the gauge was picked up from the mine by another logistics company on January 12th. When unpacked on January 25th, it was found dismantled, missing one of the four mounting bolts, a screw, and a capsule.
Officials believe vibrations from the road train caused the gauges to break apart and the capsule to fall out.
How dangerous are capsules?
Filled with Cesium-137, it emits radiation equivalent to 10 x-rays per hour. Authorities have issued a radiation warning for much of Western Australia and recommend staying at least 5 meters (16.5 feet) if spotted as exposure to radiation can cause burns and illness. I’m here.
However, if you just drive by, the risk is considered relatively low.
What does your search include?
The road train departed from a mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region and arrived at a storage facility outside Perth on January 16th.
Search parties are using specialized radiation detection equipment to travel north and south along other sections of the state’s Great Northern Highway and road train journeys. The Fire and Emergency Services Agency said on Monday it would take five days to cover the road train route.On Tuesday it said more than 660km had been searched so far.
The search involved at least five government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the police, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Agency, and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton and Lewis Jackson, Editing by Edwina Gibbs)