Dangerous radioactive capsule found along outback highway in Western Australia

Dangerous radioactive capsule found along outback highway in Western Australia
Dangerous radioactive capsule found along outback highway in Western Australia. (Department of Fire and Emergency Services via AP)

Western Australia authorities recovered a tiny but hazardous radioactive capsule on Wednesday 1st February 2023.

The radioactive capsule, no larger than a pea, was lost from a truck during its journey on the 1,400-kilometre Great Northern Highway in the Outback.

It was eventually discovered south of the mining town of Newman by a search vehicle traveling at 70 km/h, whose specialist equipment detected radiation emitting from the capsule. Portable search equipment was utilised to pinpoint its location, 2 metres away from the side of the road.

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson praised the efforts of the search crew, stating that they had found “the needle in the haystack.” Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson confirmed that the capsule had not moved and that no injuries had been reported.

The capsule contained a caesium 137 ceramic source, a common component in radiation gauges, which emits dangerous levels of radiation equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in an hour. Prolonged exposure to this type of radiation can cause skin burns and increase the risk of cancer.

The search crew spent six days searching the entire length of the highway to locate the 8mm by 6mm capsule.

To determine how the capsule was lost from the truck, a government investigation was initiated, with the results to be presented to the health minister.

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