Pea-Size Radioactive Capsule Found After Long Search In Australia

 It was like finding a needle in a haystack — if the needle was a radioactive capsule the size of a pea, and the haystack was an 870-mile road in the Australian Outback.

Approximately 6 Days, more than 100 People was involved in this research. 

Authorities in Western Australia announced Wednesday that they recovered the missing, tiny but potentially deadly device that fell off a truck last month along an Outback highway.

Search crews had spent six days scouring the entire length of the highway, where it had become lost while being transported by a contractor on behalf of the mining giant Rio Tinto.

The misplaced capsule was discovered south of the mining town of Newman on the Great Northern Highway. It was detected by a search vehicle driving 43 mph when specialist equipment, including radiation survey meters, picked up radiation emanating from the device.

Portable search equipment was used to locate it six and a half feet from the side of the road.

“This is an extraordinary result … they have quite literally found the needle in the haystack,” said Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson.

Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson said the capsule did not appear to have moved and no injuries had been reported.

It contains the caesium 137 ceramic source, commonly used in radiation gauges, which emits dangerous amounts of radiation, equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in an hour. It could cause skin burns, and prolonged exposure could cause cancer.

The capsule measures just 0.31 inches by 0.24 inches, and drivers in the region have been warned it could have unknowingly become stuck in their car’s tires.

A government investigation has been launched into how the capsule fell off the truck and a report will be provided to the health minister.

Defense officials were verifying the identification of the capsule, which has been placed into a lead container for safety. It will be stored in a secure location in Newman before being transported to a health facility in Perth.

The capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed that was being transported between Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in the remote Pilbara region and Perth on Jan. 10.

The truck carrying the gauge with the capsule arrived at a Perth depot on Jan. 16. When it was unpacked for inspection on Jan. 25, the gauge was found broken apart, with one of four mounting bolts missing and screws from the gauge also gone.

Authorities suspect vibrations from the truck caused the screws and the bolt to come loose, and the radioactive capsule from the gauge fell out of the package and then out of a gap in the truck.

Emergency services were notified of the missing capsule last Wednesday, triggering a massive search covering an area roughly equivalent to the distance from Washington, DC, to Orlando.

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