Authorities race against time in urgent search for tiny radioactive capsule lost in Western Australia
A tiny but dangerous radioactive capsule that can cause cancer and skin burns has gone missing in Western Australia’s outback, sparking an urgent health alert.
As a hunt was launched yesterday, people were warned to stay clear of the capsule, which is just 8mm high and 6mm wide and is somewhere along an 870-mile journey between the south-west city of Perth and a mine north of Newman from one truck fell .
The capsule was lost some time after January 10 and was intended to be used in a radioactive gauge, a device commonly used in mining.
The small, round, silver capsule contains a small amount of radioactive cesium-137, but “a fairly large dose of radiation.”
It is believed to have fallen through a loophole after a bolt was loosened by a container that collapsed from vibrations en route.
At an emergency press conference yesterday, authorities asked motorists traveling on the Great Northern Highway between Newman and Perth since January 10 to check their tires in case the capsule got stuck in them.
They warned that anyone approaching it would be exposed to the same amount of radiation as 10 X-rays in an hour, or a year’s natural radiation to a body.
“It emits both beta and gamma rays. So if you have it in your area, you could either suffer skin damage including skin burns,” said Andy Robertson, the chief health officer.
“And if you have it around you long enough, it could cause acute radiation sickness. This is going to take a while now, but of course we’re advising people not to be around or clinging to it.
Anyone who finds the pod should call an emergency number but otherwise stay at least five meters away, authorities said.
While the pod can make people sick, it cannot be armed.
Mr Robertson said their main concern was someone picking up the capsule, which is roughly the size of an Australian dime, without knowing it was dangerous. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2023)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/australasia/authorities-in-race-against-time-in-urgent-search-for-tiny-radioactive-capsule-lost-in-western-australia-42316839.html Authorities race against time in urgent search for tiny radioactive capsule lost in Western Australia