MELBOURNE, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Australian authorities on Tuesday sent more personnel and specialized detection equipment, including a team from the country’s nuclear safety agency, to search for a small radioactive capsule lost somewhere in the countryside.
The capsule is believed to have fallen from a road train (a truck with multiple trailers) traveling 1,400 km (870 miles) in Western Australia, and its loss has triggered a radiation alert in large parts of the vast state.
The Ministry of Fire and Emergency Services said on Monday it will take five days to retrace the road train’s route. On Tuesday, he said 660 km had been searched so far.
The hunt includes the Department of Defense, the police and now a number of government agencies including the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the Australian Nuclear and Science Technology Organization.
The capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of the iron ore feed entrusted by Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO.AX) to SGS Australia, the specialist contractor for packaging and unpacking. The transport was then subcontracted to logistics firm Centurion.
Authorities suspect that vibrations from the road train caused the screws and a bolt in the gauge to loosen, and then the capsule fell. The indicator was taken from the mine site on January 1. It was unpacked for inspection on January 12. When the loss of 25 capsules becomes clear.
Centurion said in a statement that the capsule was removed from equipment inside a case. A Centurion spokesperson told Reuters by phone that the shipping crate and pallet were supplied by SGS.
SGS did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. Rio apologized for the loss.
The road train traveled from the Gudai-Darri mine in Rio’s remote Kimberley region of the state to a storage facility in the Perth suburbs – a distance longer than the length of Great Britain.
Search teams travel north and south along the state’s Great Northern Highway and other parts of the road train’s journey with specialized radiation detection equipment.
“Today’s delivery will further enhance our search efforts and complement the equipment we have been using since the search began last Thursday,” Darryl Ray, fire and emergency department incident controller, said in a statement. said.
“The equipment is able to detect the radiation emitted by the missing capsule and is currently used in the Perth metropolitan area and its suburbs.”
The 6 mm diameter and 8 mm long silver capsule 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 if they notice this, as exposure can cause radiation burns or radiation sickness, but passing by the capsule is believed to be relatively low risk, similar to taking an X-ray.
reporting by Melanie Burton from Melbourne and Lewis Jackson from Sydney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs
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