Feb 1, 2023
Tiny Radioactive Capsule Found in Australia After Desert Search
(Bloomberg) -- A tiny but dangerous radioactive widget that fell off a truck on a remote road in Western Australia has been recovered after a search involving multiple government agencies.
The capsule went missing last month, apparently while being ferried by a specialist contractor from one of Rio Tinto Plc’s massive iron ore mines in the Pilbara to a depot in Perth. Health authorities had warned anyone who managed to spot the device — less than one centimeter in length — not to pick it up.
“The radioactive substance has been found and no longer poses a risk to the community,” Emergency WA said on its website Wednesday.
The exact circumstances behind the capsule’s disappearance are still mysterious. A package containing the device made it to Perth on Jan. 16, but its toxic contents were found to be missing on Jan. 25.
Read more: The Search for Rio Tinto’s Toxic Capsule, Somewhere in Australia
Rio’s Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott again apologized for the incident in a statement. He thanked the search crews, and said the company will be reviewing its procedures — including the use of third-party contractors — for packaging and transporting radioactive materials.
The device was used at Rio’s mines to measure the density of iron ore.
“It’s a good result, as I’ve said, it’s certainly a needle in a haystack that has been found, and I think West Australians can sleep better tonight,” the state’s Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson told reporters, according to the ABC.
Rio’s statement highlighted how authorities had mobilized to track down the missing toxic material.
As well as Western Australia’s emergency services, Rio thanked the Australian Defence Force, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
(Updates with Rio Tinto statement from fifth paragraph.)
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