A tiny radioactive capsule was lost in Australia

On Monday Rio Tinto Ltd apologized for the loss of a tiny radioactive capsule, which was believed to have fallen from a truck. It has sparked the radiation alert across parts of the vast state of Western Australia. 

However, it is not clear how long the radioactive capsule, part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed, had been missing. 

On January 12, the gauge was picked up by a specialist contractor from Rio’s Gudai-Darri mine site. But on January 15, when it was unpacked for inspection, the gauge was found broken apart with one of four mounting bolts missing and the screw from the gauge also gone. 

Image Source: ThePrint.com

The radioactive capsule slipped out 

According to the authorities, The radioactive capsule from the gauge slipped out of the box and subsequently out of a crack in the truck, both of which were brought on by vibrations from the truck, 

The truck travelled more than 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) from Newman, a small town in the remote Kimberley region, to a storage facility in the northeast suburbs of Perth. This is a distance longer than the length of Great Britain, and authorities are now faced with the daunting task of searching along that route.

Authority is taking action and warns people 

“This issue is something we are treating seriously. We regret the worry it has caused in the Western Australian community and acknowledge that this is extremely concerning “Simon Trott, the head of Rio’s iron ore division, made a statement.

Caesium-137, which emits radiation equivalent to 10 X-rays per hour, is housed in a silver capsule that is 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long.

Authorities have instructed people to stay at least 5 metres away because exposure could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness. However, they said the risk to the general community is very relatively low. 

The state’s emergency services department has created a hazard management team and brought in specialist tools, such as mobile radiation survey metres that can be used from moving vehicles to assess radiation levels within a 20-metres radius.

Rio is conducting an investigation 

Trott said that Rio had hired a third-party contractor with the necessary training and credentials to package and transport the gauge securely.

He added that Rio was also conducting its investigation into how the loss occurred. “We have completed radiological surveys of all areas on site where the device had been, and surveyed roads within the mine site as well as the access road leading away from the Gudai-Darri mine site,” he said.

Analysts claim that the transportation of hazardous materials to and from mine sites was commonplace. Additionally, it stated that such occurrences were highly uncommon and did not indicate a lack of safety standards on the side of Rio.

This occurrence is a headache after the 2020 demolition of two historic and sacred rock shelters in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia fan iron ore mining.

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