There is currently a radioactive capsule lost somewhere on the 1400km stretch of highway between Newman and Malaga in Western Australia. It is a 8mm x 6mm cylinder used in mining equipment. Being in close proximity to it is the equivalent having 10 X-rays per hour. It fell out of a truck.
Authorities in Western Australia are searching for a missing radioactive capsule lost from a mine site in the state’s north.
The capsule was lost somewhere between the mine in Newman and the outskirts of Perth — a potential search area stretching more than 1,400km.
The DFES is coordinating the search.
From a news article:
A missing radioactive capsule lost somewhere between Perth and a Pilbara mine site over an area of 1,400 kilometres has sparked an urgent health warning.
In an emergency press conference on Friday afternoon, WA’s chief health officer urged people to stay away from the capsule if they see it because of its radioactive properties.
The capsule is tiny – 6mm diameter by 8mm high.
The radioactive gauges are commonly used in mining. It went missing from a truck sometime after January 10.
Any motorists who have travelled along the Great Northern Highway between Newman and Perth since January 10 should check their tyres, in case the capsule has become lodged in them.
Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson said the capsule was lost while it was being transported, somewhere between a mine site north of Newman and Malaga, north east of Perth.
It is believed the capsule fell through the gap left by a bolt hole, after the bolt was dislodged when a container collapsed as a result of vibrations during the trip.
Authorities are searching Great Northern Highway in a desperate effort to find the capsule, which is smaller than a 10-cent piece.
DFES said the capsule “cannot be weaponised” but are still urging caution due to potentially serious health consequences.
Radiation equivalent to 10 X-rays an hour
Mr Robertson said it does emit a “reasonable” amount of radiation.
He says the radiation emitted is equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in one hour, if you were within one metre of it, or the amount of natural radiation a body is exposed to over a year.
The half-life of the substance is 30 years.
“It emits both beta rays and gamma rays so if you have it close to you, you could either end up with skin damage including skin burns,” he said.
“And if you have it long enough near you, it could cause acute radiation sickness.
“Now that will take a period of time but obviously we are recommending people not be close to it or hang on to it.”
Mr Robertson advised anyone who finds the capsule not to go near it, and to rather call DFES on 133 337.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services is leading search efforts, coordinating a team involving the Department of Health, WA Police, and other subject matter experts.
DFES Country North chief superintendent David Gill said there would be “challenges” in locating such a small object.
“The start and finish of the transportation from the mine site north of Newman, and the transport depot in Perth, are among some of the locations that are searched, and being searched yesterday, but the capsule remains unfound,” he said.
“There are challenges here. It is 1,400 kilometres between the mine site … to the north of Newman, and Perth.”
DFES have issued a warning for people to stay at least five metres away from it if they see something that resembles the capsule.
People are urged to avoid coming into contact with it, and immediately contact DFES. [ABC]
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