February 07, 2023

Lost and Found: Radioactive Capsule Recovered in Australian Outback

People lose things all the time, be it their car keys, their cellphones or their glasses. However, a mining company lost (and recovered) something incredibly dangerous in Western Australia recently.

On 25 January, Anglo-Australian multinational mining corporation, Rio Tinto, reportedly lost a Caesium-137 radioactive capsule, which was to be used as a gauge for a mining operation, enroute from the town of Newman to the north of Perth.

It is assumed that the device, along with a bolt and several screws, fell out of its package through a hole in the truck transporting it.

The distance between the two points spans roughly 1 400 kilometres, and to make matters even worse, the capsule itself measures eight millimetres by six millimetres, which is no larger than an analog watch battery or a pea.

Two days later, authorities began their search for the radioactive capsule, and with great effort and some luck, they found it 74 kilometres south of Newman last Wednesday, 1 February.

While this proverbial nuclear needle in a haystack posed no immediate threat, the hazard it presented was akin to receiving a radiation dose of ten X-rays over an hour from a distance of one metre.

Andrew Robertson, the chief health officer for Western Australia, released an official statement shortly after the capsule was found, confirming what had happened and concluded the search by saying: “This is a great result for the community of Western Australia.”

And you thought misplacing your spectacles was the end of the world!

Image Credit: Source