Took Australian authorities two weeks to notice radioactive capsule
The radioactive capsule which is roughly the size of a fraction of a 10c coin is highly hazardous. It is reported to potentially cause skin burns, radiation sickness, and cancer.
Authorities in Western Australia are scrounging for a coin-sized radioactive capsule that went missing more than two weeks after it left a Rio Tinto mine site.
The 8mm x 6mm capsule was meant to be contained in a secure device. During the delivery from the mine site in Pilbara to a depot in Perth the device was reported to be "damaged" on the truck. The capsule is 19-becquerel cesium-137 ceramic sources, which is frequently used in radiation gauges.
Authorities warn that it can cause skin burns, radiation sickness, and cancer as they patrol the 1,400 km Great Northern highway.
Darryl Ray, the acting superintendent for Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services, said in a press conference “We have continued the search on strategic sites along the route that the vehicle had taken, concentrating on sites close to high-population areas within the metropolitan suburbs,”
He added, “The search involves the use of radiation survey meters to detect the radiation levels which will help us locate the small device. We are using the radiation detectors to locate the gamma rays, using the meters, that will help us then locate the small device."
Andrew Robertson, the chief health officer for Western Australia, reported that screws were found to be missing from the protective device when it was discovered.
“These gauges are designed to be robust and to be used in industrial settings where they may be exposed to weather and vibration, so it is unusual for a gauge to come apart like this one has,” he said.
The capsule had been packaged in the device for delivery back on January 10 and not until January 25th was the package discovered to be damaged.
Additionally, Robertson warned anyone who finds the capsule not to handle it due to safety hazards.
Robertson emphasized the uncertainty of the status of the situation explaining possible scenarios "it could have been knocked further out into the bush, it could have been picked up and carried in a tire wheel in another direction."