Authorities in Western Australia have reportedly recovered a lost radioactive capsule.
It was described as the “needle in the haystack” being discovered by emergency responders.
When the device went missing while being carried along a 1,400km (870 mile) route throughout the state, a massive search was launched.
The authorities posted a photo of the pea-sized capsule, which may cause significant injury if touched, up close on the ground among small stones.
It was a 6mm (0.24 inch) in diameter and 8mm in length capsule, and a serial number let them be sure they had it.
Caesium-137, even in trace amounts, can cause severe burns, radiation illness, and even skin cancer.
Rio Tinto, a mining conglomerate, expressed regret at the misplacement of the density gauge.
The capsule will be placed in a lead container after a “hot zone” of 20 meters is set up around it.
It will be kept safe in Newman overnight before being moved to another secure location in Perth on Thursday.
The state’s rescue services praised “inter-agency coordination in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties” when they announced the discovery.
According to authorities, the capsule was discovered by a vehicle traveling at 70 kilometers per hour (about 43 miles per hour) that was equipped with special technology that identified radiation.
The capsule was recovered roughly 2 meters (7 feet) from the roadside after being detected using portable detection equipment.
The instrument was being used as a density gauge at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in Western Australia’s outback Pilbara area.
Simon Trott, president of the company’s iron ore business, stated, “The plain reality is the gadget should never have been lost.” Authorities’ retrieval of the capsule was “quite miraculous,” and he expressed his gratitude for that.
Mr. Trott stated that Rio Tinto would gladly refund the government for the expense of the search if so required.
Authorities in Australia have committed to reviewing the relevant legislation.
The existing penalties for improperly handling radioactive material is “ridiculously low,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference in Perth. The current fine is A$1,000 (about $700 or £575) and A$50 (about £30) each day for each subsequent offense.
Western Australia’s chief health officer, Andrew Robertson, made the comparison this week: “getting 10 X-rays in an hour, just to put it in context, and… the amount of natural radiation we would receive in a year, simply by walking about.”
Up until around two weeks ago, it was possible that the capsule had gone lost.
The region combed in an effort to locate the missing capsule was vast. It’s about the same as driving from Washington, DC to Orlando, FL, or from John O’Groats in northern Scotland to Land’s End in south-west England.
The desert in this state is one of the least inhabited regions of the United States. Out of Western Australia’s total population, just 20% reside in areas other than the state capital, Perth.