After days of searching, experts in Western Australia have found a radioactive capsule that had fallen off a truck. Response teams discovered the tiny and very dangerous capsule about 50 kilometers south of the mining town of Newman, broadcaster ABC reported on Wednesday, citing the region's government.
The casing, just a millimeter in size, fell out of its container while being transported from a mine north of Newman to a depot near the city of Perth. Since then, specialists have been using detectors to search the 1,400-kilometer route. The media had written that the undertaking was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The incident occurred sometime after January 12th. The fact that the capsule was missing was not noticed until January 25, when the truck was unloaded.
Recently, the Authority for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Arpansa) had also turned on the search. The agency has sent experts to the west of the country to help with the search for the tiny capsule along a 1400-kilometer route with special equipment, the broadcaster 9News reported on Wednesday. Among other things, they were used with radiation detectors on vehicles.
"We need to look at how these capsules are transported," said Emergency Services Secretary Stephen Dawson. "It's beyond me how something like that could fall off the back of a truck." The British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto had already apologized for the incident. The corporation operates the Gudai Darri mine, from where the capsule was transported.
It is believed that vibrations caused a bolt in the container to loosen during travel and the mini-case fell through the bolt hole. The loss of the capsule containing the highly radioactive cesium-137, which was just six by eight millimeters in size, had caused great concern in Western Australia given the very dangerous material. Anyone who discovers something that looks like a tiny capsule should keep a distance of at least five meters, they said.