Australian authorities on Tuesday sent out more personnel and specialized detection equipment to search for a tiny radioactive capsule missing somewhere in the outback, including a team from the country’s nuclear safety agency.
The capsule is believed to have fallen from a road train – a truck with multiple trailers – that made a 1,400 km (870 mile) journey in Western Australia and its loss has triggered a radiation alert for large parts of the vast state.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services said on Monday that it would take five days to retrace the road train’s route. On Tuesday, it said that 660 km had been searched so far.
The hunt involves a slew of government agencies including the Department of Defense, the police and now the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the Australian Nuclear and Science Technology Organization.
The capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed that had been entrusted by Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX) to specialist contractor SGS Australia for packaging and unpackaging. Transport was then subcontracted out to logistics firm Centurion.
Authorities suspect vibrations from the road train caused the screws and a bolt from the gauge to come loose, and then the capsule fell out. The gauge was picked up from the mine site on Jan. 12 and was unpacked for inspection on Jan. 25 when the loss of the capsule became evident.