A radioactive capsule smaller than a penny that was lost in the Australian outback has been found along the side of the road, according to The Guardian.
The capsule, which fell from a device being transported on a truck, is part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed at a mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region, according to The New York Times.
The device, which had been missing for more than two weeks, was found near where its more than 860-mile journey began.
“We have essentially found the needle in the haystack,” Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said in a statement. “When you consider the challenge of finding an object smaller than a 10-cent coin along a 1,400-kilometer stretch of Great Northern Highway, it is a tremendous result.”
The coin-size device posed a “significant public health risk,” according to Australian authorities.
An investigation has been launched into how the capsule fell off the device, according to Western Australia’s chief health officer, Andrew Robertson.
“I have responsibility as the chair of the radiological council to actually investigate and if required, prosecute offenses,” Robertson said.
“We have a number of authorized officers who are doing that. Our radiation health branch, within the Department of Health, is conducting that investigation and they will be looking at all aspects of this event.”
Robertson said he was not aware of any injuries or people exposed to radiation.
“It does not appear the device has moved,” he said. “It appears to have fallen off the truck and landed by the side of the road. It is remote enough that it is not near any major community.”
Health officials had warned people not to touch or stand near the capsule should they come upon it, NPR reported. The radiation emitted from the capsule would be equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in an hour, according to Western Australia’s health department.
A 20-meter exclusion zone has been established where the device was found, as health authorities survey the area for any contamination.
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