In Western Australia, authorities are continuing to search for a radioactive capsule measuring just six by eight millimeters that was lost in transit from a mining site.

The tiny container had fallen from a truck somewhere along a 1400-kilometer route.

A coalition of different authorities is now using special equipment to search for the capsule, including radiation and metal detectors.

The silver container of radioactive cesium-137 is smaller than an Australian dime.

It's like the famous search for a needle in a haystack.

Till Fähnders

Political correspondent for Southeast Asia.

  • Follow I follow

Due to the low level of radiation, it is not possible to install a radiation detector on a vehicle and scan longer distances in a short time, said Dale Bailey from the University of Sydney to the broadcaster ABC.

For this reason, the area must be scanned relatively slowly.

"Certainly not at 100 kilometers per hour!"

The population was asked to keep a distance of at least five meters.

You should not touch the capsule and seek medical help immediately if you come into contact with it.

According to Western Australia Health Director Andrew Robertson, the capsule emits a significant amount of radioactivity that could be dangerous to humans.

It's like having ten x-rays in one hour.

The possible symptoms ranged from reddening of the skin and burns to effects on the immune system and the gastrointestinal tract.

Prolonged contact with the material could lead to cancer.

"Clearly very worrying"

According to the authorities, the material cannot be used for weapons.

Small amounts of radioactive material are used in mining instruments.

A contractor specializing in the transport of radioactive materials was commissioned with the transport.

The capsule had disappeared en route from the Gudai Darri mine north of Newman in the Pilbara mining region to the contractor's warehouse in Malaga, a suburb of Perth.

Transport on the Great Northern Highway had already taken place between January 11th and 16th.

The loss of the capsule was only noticed later, when the load was to be fetched from the truck.

The authorities informed the public last Friday.

The mining company apologized for the incident on Monday.

"We recognize that this is clearly a matter of great concern and apologize for the alarm it has caused among the people of Western Australia," said Simon Trott, chief executive officer of iron ore at the British-Australian company.

According to Trott, a Geiger counter was used to check that the capsule was in its container before it was transported.

Screws were later missing from this container.

It is suspected that they may have come loose due to vibrations while driving.

The search is based on the truck's GPS data.

Currently, the authorities are concentrating on populated areas.

According to Managing Director Trott, the mine site and the access road to the mine have already been searched.

According to the Australian press, such transports are carried out in the mining regions of Australia on a daily basis with nothing being lost.

Lauren Steen from the Radiation Protection Agency spoke of an "event of the century".

She said it's still a mystery how such a loss could have happened.

The companies followed extremely strict guidelines when transporting radioactive material.

"We're scratching our heads, to be honest," Steen said.

She spoke of a wake-up call for all companies that handle radioactive materials to take this work very seriously.