A tiny radioactive capsule missing somewhere in Western Australia last week has prompted high alert for both local authorities and residents, according to local sources.
Amid the threat, a search operation is underway to find the missing toxic object. The incident also led experts to question how a hazardous material vanished out of thin air despite tight security measures.
Australian authorities has implemented several measures as a means to protect the public from the deadly chemical, urging individuals to stay away from the capsule if found.
Local officials reportedly believe the dangerous pod went missing after it fell from a moving road train, a truck with multiple trailers, when traveling across a major highway in the Australian outback.
Missing Tiny Radioactive Capsule
(Photo : Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
As of Tuesday, January 31, the Australian government deployed more experts and equipment to search for the missing radioactive capsule, which is owned by mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. which sub-contracted logistics firm Centurion to transport the object along the state’s Great Northern Highway, Reuters reported.
The transport departed from the highway’s remote section of the Kimberley region in route to a storage facility in the suburbs of Perth. Search crews have travelled both north and south bounds of the highway and other sections traversed by the road train.
ABC News Australia on Tuesday cited statement from experts that the incident involving the disappearance of the radioactive capsule should have been impossible, as authorities continue to search a 1,400-kilometer highway.
Radioactive Materials Examples
Also called as radionuclides, radioactive materials are harmful and can be lethal to one’s health. However, the usage of these materials have been widely integrated to different industries and fields, ranging from electricity generation, agriculture, nuclear medicine, nuclear energy, to industrial radiography.
According to the US government agency-affiliated Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the following are some of the examples of radioactive materials:
- Ionizing radiation
The ATSDR identifies radionuclides as a class of chemicals where nucleus or the center of the atom is unstable. This means that the radioactive materials must be contain at all times, since it can harm not only humans and animals but also the environment.
The agency adds these types of chemicals achieve stability through changes in the nucleus through various processes like spontaneous fission, alpha particles emission, or conversion of neutrons to protons or vice-versa.
Worst Radioactive Accident in History
One may not talk about radionuclides without mentioning the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster, the worst radioactive accident in history, where various radioactive materials, including uranium, leaked from a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The impact of Chernobyl’s toxic chemical was so intense it immediately killed dozens of people, mainly workers and those who responded to the emergency. It also prompted prolonged exposure of radioactive contaminants for people in nearby areas at that time. This led to a widespread exclusion zone.
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