Search underway for radioactive capsule missing in Australia

SYDNEY, Jan. 28 (BNA): Parts of Western Australia were hit by a radioactive alert on Saturday after authorities said a radioactive mining capsule went missing en route to the state capital, Perth.

Reuters reports that authorities in Australia’s largest state issued a warning on Friday about the “risk of radioactive materials” for several areas, including Perth.

The Fire Department and Emergency Services said the small silver capsule containing cesium-137 was lost during transport from North Newman – a small town in the remote Kimberley region – to the northeastern suburbs of Perth.

“The substance is used inside measuring devices in mining operations. Exposure to this substance can cause radiation burns or radiation sickness,” the agency said.

The state health agency said the capsule went missing while it was being driven in a truck from a mine to a storage facility in Perth. Newman is located about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) northeast of Perth.

The truck left the site on Jan. 12, but the capsule wasn’t found missing until this week, which is when emergency services were alerted, according to authorities.

The capsule was reportedly from a mine by Rio Tinto Ltd. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Andrew Robertson, Western Australia’s chief health officer, said the capsule, if kept close to the body, could cause skin redness and radiation burns.

“If they are kept long enough and exposed long enough, they may have some acute effects, including effects on their immune system,” he told reporters.

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He said he believed the truck’s vibration caused the gauge to collapse and the item to fly out.


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