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Gets a Dose of Reality as Lost Radioactive Capsule Found After Going AWOL

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In Western Australia, a tiny radioactive capsule that went missing last month has finally been found by authorities. The capsule, measuring only 6mm in diameter and 8mm in length, was part of a density gauge used in the mining industry by Rio Tinto. The search was initiated after the capsule went missing while being transported along a 1,400 km route across the state. The emergency services finally found the missing item after a vehicle equipped with specialist equipment detected radiation while traveling at 70 km/h. Portable detection equipment was then used to locate the capsule, which was found just 2 meters from the side of the road.

The capsule contains a small amount of Caesium-137, which can cause skin damage, burns, or radiation sickness. A 20m “hot zone” has been established around the capsule, and it will be stored in a secure location overnight before being transported to a secure facility in Perth. Rio Tinto has apologized for losing the capsule and has offered to reimburse the cost of the search if requested by the government.

The head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore division, Simon Trott, said the device should never have been lost and expressed gratitude for the “pretty incredible recovery” of the capsule. The prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, has promised a review of existing laws on radioactive substances, as the current fine for failing to safely handle them is deemed too low.

This incident comes as Rio Tinto tries to repair its reputation in Australia. In 2020, the company faced backlash for blasting 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge to expand an iron ore mine. A parliamentary inquiry found that sexual harassment was rampant in the country’s mining firms, after an internal review at Rio Tinto revealed over 20 women had reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault over a five-year period.

In conclusion, the recovery of the missing radioactive capsule is a testament to inter-agency teamwork and the importance of strict regulations to ensure the safe handling of hazardous materials. The incident serves as a reminder of the potential consequences of not following proper protocols and highlights the need for continuous improvement in this regard.

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