A tiny but radioactive capsule missing in Australia has sparked a frantic search. And an apology from a mining company whose item is believed to have fallen off a truck.
The round and silver capsule, 6 millimeters in diameter.
And 8 millimeters long, went missing in Western Australia last week. Prompting officials to warn against any contact with the dangerous substance.
Authorities on Monday covered an 870-mile stretch of land roughly the length of California. While the mining giant said it was sorry to lose the radioactive device.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore said it is conducting an internal investigation into how the lethal. And radioactive material, which is used in gauges in mining operations, may have been lost.
Chief executive Simon Trott said in a statement: “We recognize that this is about. And we regret the danger it has caused to the West Australian community.”
Authorities were undertaking the difficult task of locating. And securing the tiny capsule, which is believed to have fallen off a truck. On January 10 during a long journey from a desert mine site near Newman to a storage facility in Perth.
Emergency services were first notified last Wednesday. Officials said, and alerted the public last Friday.
“DFES and radiation experts are driving north. And south along the Great Northern Highway to search. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said in a hazmat warning on Monday. Adding that it was using survey meters to locate the capsule. Detection of radiation levels.
The truck arrived in Perth on January 16, DFES said, with emergency services. Only notified of the missing capsule on January 25 when a gauge was open for inspection.
“Upon opening the package. It was found that one of the four mounting bolts was missing. And the gauge was broken with the source. And all the gauge screws missing,” emergency services said.
Although the capsule cannot be weaponized. The health department said in a statement Friday. It could cause “serious health consequences.”
The capsule’s radioactive source, Caesium-137, emits a lethal amount of radiation. Equal to about 10 X-rays an hour, and prolonged exposure can even cause cancer. Cesium-137 takes about 30 years to decay by half.
“It disappears quite compared to other radionuclides. But, the short half-life means it is quite active,” Hajime Kinoshita. A senior lecturer in materials chemistry at the University of Sheffield in the UK, told NBC News.
“So, if it’s in someone’s pocket or something, it’s not particularly great. He said, adding that prolonged exposure can damage human cells.
Authorities have warned to stay at least 5 meters away from there.
“Exposure to this material can cause radioactivity burns or serious illness. If people see capsules or anything similar, keep away from it. Ind keep others away from it,” Western Australia’s chief health officer. Andrew Robertson said in a statement. Andrew Robertson said in a statement. Friday
“If you are too close to the material or touch it. The risk of radiation increases and can damage your health. Including radiation burns to the skin.”
Concerns remain about the capsule sticking to car tires. But the risk to passengers was low, Kinoshita said. Because the organic material of the tires.
As well as research, Robertson told NBC News in a separate statement on Monday.
“It’s rare to lose a source,” he said, adding that these radioactive sources are usually returned. The manufacturer at the end of their serviceable life.
Rio Tinto did not immediately respond to TTN News’ request for further comment.