MELBOURNE, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Australia’s nuclear safety agency said on Tuesday it had joined the search for a tiny missing radioactive capsule somewhere in the outback, sending a team with equipment specialized portable and car-mounted detection device.
Authorities have been searching for a week for the capsule that allegedly fell from a truck that had traveled 1,400 km (870 miles) in Western Australia. The loss triggered a radiation alert for large parts of the vast state.
The capsule, part of a gauge used to measure iron ore feed density, had been contracted by Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX) to a specialist contractor for transport. Rio apologized Monday for the loss, which occurred over the past two weeks.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency said it was working with the Western Australian government to locate the capsule. He added that the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization has also sent radiation service specialists as well as detection and imaging equipment.
The truck traveled from Rio’s Gudai-Darri mine, north of Newman, a small town in the remote Kimberley region, to a storage facility in suburban Perth – a distance longer than the length of Great Britain. Brittany.
State emergency officials on Tuesday issued a new alert to motorists along Australia’s longest highway to be careful when approaching search teams, as vehicles carrying the detectors radiation roll at low speed.
“It will take approximately five days to complete the original route, approximately 1400km, with crews traveling north to south along the Great Northern Highway,” said the Department of Fire and Emergency Services Incident Controller. emergency, Darryl Ray, in a statement Monday evening.
The gauge was recovered from the mine site on January 12. When unpacked for inspection on January 25, the gauge was found broken, with one of the four mounting bolts missing, and the gauge screws also missing.
Authorities suspect the vibrations from the truck caused the screws and bolt to loosen, and the capsule to fall out of the packaging and then out of a gap in the truck.
The silver capsule, 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long, contains cesium 137 which emits radiation equal to 10 X-rays per hour.
People have been told to stay at least five meters (16.5 feet) away as exposure could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness, although walking past the capsule is considered a relatively low risk , similar to an x-ray.
Reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Edwina Gibbs
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.