Tiny Missing Radioactive Capsule Found on Roadside in Australia

Australian Government

The capsule, which measures one-third of an inch long, went missing last month. It was found in Newton and brought to a secure facility in Perth, according to CBS News.

A missing radioactive capsule measuring less than half an inch long has been found in Western Australia, according to reports.

The capsule, which went missing last month, was found in Newton and brought to a secure facility in Perth, according to CBS News.

Emergency services said it had "literally found the needle in the haystack,” after finding the small capsule on a stretch of highway when it went missing as it was being transported along an 870-mile route across country, BBC reported.

Officials said the it's unlikely the capsule contaminated the area.

The silver capsule, which measures 6 millimeters in diameter and 8 millimeters long (.2 inches by .3 inches respectively) contains Caesium-137, which emits radiation equal to 10 X-rays per hour, CBS News reported.

Mining company Rio Tinto apologized for losing the capsule, which is used as a density gauge in the mining industry. The company is mining in a remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, according to BBC.

"The simple fact is the device should never have been lost," said the head of the company's iron ore division, Simon Trott.

Trott said that it is a "pretty incredible recovery" of the capsule and thanked authorities for finding it, according to BBC.

Trott also said that Rio Tinto would be happy to reimburse the cost of the search if requested by the government.

Australian authorities have promised an investigation into how the capsule went missing from the truck, and have also promised a review of existing laws on the matter.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a press conference that the current fine for failing to safely handle radioactive substances is "ridiculously low.” The current fines stands at about $700 and $35 for every day that the offense continues, BBC reported.

Exposure to trace quantities of the metal is like "receiving 10 X-rays in an hour, just to put it in context, and... the amount of natural radiation we would receive in a year, just by walking around," Western Australia's chief health officer, Andrew Robertson, said in a press conference.

It was thought that the capsule may have gone missing about two weeks ago.

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