Authorities say a highly radioactive capsule that went missing during a transit in Western Australia last month has been found, following a massive search for the capsule that went missing.
Western Australia’s state emergency services said on Wednesday that the radioactive material had been ‘recovered and there is no longer a risk to the community.’
A ‘hazmat’ (highly hazardous material) alert issued by emergency services said radioactive material was now contained in parts of the Pilbara, Midwest Gascoyne, Goldfields Midlands and Perth metropolitan areas.
The capsule contained cesium-137, which is commonly used in radiation equipment and emits dangerous amounts of radiation equivalent to 10 X-rays per hour.
It got lost earlier this month while traveling on a stretch of road longer than the length of the UK. After which the authorities also issued a radiation alert for a large area of Western Australia.
The capsule was packed on January 10 and sent by road to Perth on January 12 for repairs, officials said.
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Officials say the tiny capsule is six millimeters in diameter and eight millimeters in length, which poses a risk of burns and can cause cancer if left in its presence for a long time.
After arriving in Perth, it was placed in a safe radiation storage facility for approximately 10 days. When the package was opened on January 25, the radiation gauge was broken, missing one of the four bolts, the capsule and all the screws on the gauge.
Western Australian Police notified DFES as well as the State Hazard Management Agency that evening.
The capsule was found within a day when Australia’s Nuclear Safety Agency joined the search with special car-mounted and portable detection equipment.
Authorities on Tuesday also sent experts from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization’s Radiation Services along with detection and imaging equipment.
Rio Tinto, the mining corporation responsible for transporting the capsules, apologized for the ‘alarm’ over the weekend and said it was ‘taking the incident very seriously.’
Simon Trott, head of the company’s iron and steel division, said Rio Tinto was conducting its own investigation into how the capsule was lost.