Perth, Feb 1 (IANS) A tiny radioactive capsule missing in the Australian outback was found on Wednesday after days of searching.
In a press conference, the Emergency Service Minister for Western Australia (WA), Stephen Dawson, announced the 8 mm by 6 mm capsule was found by search crews earlier in the morning, reports Xinhua news agency.
The caesium-136 capsule was reported last week, prompting an emergency search along the 1,400 km route of the truck it fell off.
It was found by a team from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services south of the town of Newman — more than 1,100 km north of the storage facility it was being transported to in Perth.
“I do want to emphasize this is an extraordinary result,” Dawson said.
“The search crews have quite literally found the needle in the haystack.”
The search vehicle was travelling at 70 km per hour along the Great Northern Highway when specialist equipment detected radiation.
Portable search equipment then found it two meters from the side of the road.
A 20-metre “hot zone” has been set up around the capsule, which will be placed into a lead container for transport once it is verified by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
Authorities had warned that the capsule posed a significant public health risk, warning that anyone who came too close or touched it without protection could suffer from radiation burns or sickness.
“Once the capsule has been secured, we will survey the site to ensure there is no contamination in the surrounding area,” Darren Klemm, the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner, said.
“In extremely unlikely circumstance that the capsule leaks we will remediate the area.”
The government has launched an investigation into the incident.
Mining giant Rio Tinto had apologised for losing the device, which could have posed a serious danger if handled.