In the Australian Outback, authorities are engaged in an unusual search-and-recovery effort. Gone missing is a capsule less than an inch long of radioactive material that can burn or sicken anyone who touches it. Their problem is that it could be anywhere along a 900-mile stretch of highway connecting a Rio Tinto PLC mine to Perth, Western Australia’s state capital…The capsule, which is 8-millimeters (about 5/16s of an inch) long and contains a small quantity of radioactive Cesium-137, worked its way loose from a piece of equipment that Rio Tinto had sent to Perth by truck for repair.
The tiny capsule fell along a route that is almost the distance between New York and St. Louis. Complicating the search effort is a gap of nearly two weeks between when the equipment left Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine on Jan. 12, 2023 and when the capsule was discovered to be missing on Jan. 25… Authorities worry the capsule could have become lodged in a tire of any of the vehicles that use the highway, potentially exposing their occupants to radiation levels that they compare to receiving around 10 X-rays in an hour. Exposure could cause radiation burns or severe illness, said Andrew Robertson, Western Australia’s chief health officer.
Excerpts from Rhiannon Hoyle, Missing Radioactive Capsule Prompts Search and Concern in Australia, WSJ, Jan. 30, 2023