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Missing radioactive capsule found in Australia

By Jordi Bou

February 1, 2023 - Australian authorities found a radioactive capsule smaller than a coin that was lost in the vast Outback after nearly a week-long search along a 1,400km stretch of highway.

Despite a 1400km-long search area along the Great Northern Highway, the capsule was located two metres from the road south of Newman.

The capsule lost in transit more than two weeks ago was discovered when a vehicle travelling at 70km per hour equipped with specialist detection equipment picked up the radiation.

Emergency services had “literally found the needle in the haystack”, they said.

The silver capsule contains a small amount of caesium-137, and is dangerously radioactive. An hour of exposure from about a metre away is the equivalent of having 10 X-rays, and prolonged contact can cause skin burns, acute radiation sickness and cancer, experts said.

The device is part of density gauge, which is used to measure density of iron ore feed.

The gauge was being transported by a subcontracted company, who picked it up from the mine site on 12 January to move it to a storage facility in the north-east suburbs of Perth.

The authorities said vibrations during transit may have caused bolts from the gauge to become loose, allowing the capsule to fall through gaps in the casing and truck.

PUBLISHED: 01/02/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: DFES WA, RODNAE Productions via Pexels