Local authorities found a radioactive capsule the size of a fingernail, which was lost in transit in Western Australia and which had terrified nearby residents, after six days of searching.
On the 1st (local time), Australia’s ABC Broadcasting reported that a radioactive capsule had been found in an area about 50 kilometers south of the mining town of Newman, citing WA Emergency Preparedness Minister Stephen Dawson.
“Finding this (small) capsule was a huge challenge,” Dawson said. The search team literally found a needle in a haystack,” he said. “Western Australia will be able to sleep better tonight.”
A state official said that when searching for a capsule while moving on a highway using special equipment provided by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA), radiation was detected, and a portable detection device was then used to locate the capsule only 2 meters from the roadside.
The radioactive capsule recovered that day is a silver cylinder with a diameter of 6 mm and a height of 8 mm, and is very small, about the size of a pea. However, it contains cesium-137 inside.
Cesium is a radioactive material that emits gamma and beta rays. If you stay within 1m of the capsule for 1 hour, you will be exposed to radiation equal to 10 X-rays.
The loss of the capsule was confirmed on the 25th of last month (local time). On the 12th of last month, Rio Tinto, an Australian mining company, sent a radiation meter used for mining in a coal mine in Newman, Western Australia, to Perth, a city 1,400 km away, for repair.
Later, when the box was opened for repair on the 25th of last month, the meter was disassembled with the screw loose and the cesium-137 capsule that should have been inside the meter lost. Firefighters speculated that vibrations used during transport may have loosened the screws.
In response, the Australian authorities set about searching for a small and dangerous capsule. The possibility of getting stuck in the tires of another vehicle and being moved to a place hundreds of kilometers away from the search area could not be ignored.
However, ARMANSA sped up the work by providing special equipment, and as a result, a fingernail-sized capsule was found after six days of searching.
Jang Ji-min, Hankyung.com guest reporter firstname.lastname@example.org