Radioactive Capsule Found After Going Missing in January

Radioactive Capsule Found After Going Missing in January

( – Few people have found a needle in a haystack, let alone a pea-sized capsule in the Australian outback. But that’s exactly what a search team did after a contractor lost a key piece of equipment while transporting it from point A to B. However, the catch, in this case, is the tiny device was actually radioactive and could contaminate any life around it if left too long.

Between January 12 and 16, a contractor working for the mining company Rio Tinto traveled from the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia to Perth. Over a week after the journey was complete, authorities noticed a small capsule containing cesium-137, a radioactive material, was missing. The device was part of a larger machine used to measure density and other data at the mine.

According to a statement by Centurion, the company that was supposed to be in charge of the transport, the crate the machine and capsule were transported in were not tampered with on the drive and the GPS data did not reveal any major changes in speed that could have dislodged anything. After the mining company alerted authorities, a search squad was formed and began driving the 870-mile stretch of road at speeds between 30 and 45 miles per hour with equipment designed to locate radioactive material.

After five days, the search team found the missing device on Wednesday, February 1. It began when an in-vehicle radiation detector alerted the search team to nearby radioactivity. Searchers then used a portable device to pinpoint the exact location of the capsule. The radioactive material was then put into a lead container for safe transport before eventually making its way to its original destination in Perth.

Thankfully, the radioactive material was not near any humans while it was lost in the outback. If it had been dropped near a person, it could have resulted in radiation sickness, burns, and even an increased risk of cancer.

While this material should never have been lost, authorities are working to ensure laws bring just punishment for such failures in the future. They are also investigating whether the mining company made the right choice in allowing a contractor to transport the material.

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