Radioactive capsule: In a bizarre incident, the Australian authorities engaged over 100 people to find out a pea size capsule lost on a 1400 km long highway. According to the officials, the capsule was not an ordinary one and could emit dangerous amounts of radiation, equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in an hour.
It contains the caesium 137 ceramic source, commonly used in radiation gauges, which emits dangerous amounts of radiation. It could cause skin burns and prolonged exposure could cause cancer. Luckily, the capsule was found. So, what happened with such a lethal capsule?
As per Australian authorities, the dangerous radioactive capsule fell off a truck while being transported along a 1,400-kilometre Outback highway last month. The truck transporting the capsule arrived at a Perth depot on January 16. Emergency services were notified of the missing capsule on January 25.
Over 100 people engaged in search operation for more than 6 days
As the capsule was lethal, the authorities engaged over 100 search crews who had spent six days scouring the entire length of the highway. The capsule measures 8 millimetres by 6 millimetres (0.31 inches by 0.24 inches), and people have been warned it could have unknowingly become lodged in their car’s tires.
Luckily, the authorities in Western Australia on Wednesday recovered the tiny capsule. An official said the search operation was like finding the needle in a haystack. Officials said the capsule the size of a pea was found south of the mining town of Newman on the Great Northern Highway.
It was detected by a search vehicle travelling at 70 kilometres (43 miles) per hour when specialist equipment picked up radiation emitting from the capsule. Portable search equipment was then used to locate it 2 meters (6.5 feet) from the side of the road.
No injuries reported
“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.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the mining giant Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Simon Trott, has apologized for the incident and expressed gratitude for the find.
“A pretty incredible recovery when you think of the distances involved, and also the remoteness of the terrain, and I think that really speaks to the tenacity of all those who were involved in the search,” Trott said.
(With inputs from AP)
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