Updated Feb 1, 2023, 6:19am EST

Australia found the tiny radioactive capsule

— with Jenna Moon


Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

After a week of searching, authorities located a tiny, dangerous radioactive capsule which fell from a truck in Western Australia.

Emergency services workers said they “found the needle in the haystack” when they located the capsule, which may have posed serious health risks to people who came near it, including radiation burns or sickness.

Members of the Incident Management Team coordinate the search for a radioactive capsule.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services/Handout via REUTERS
Title icon

Know More

The metal capsule, which is just 8 millimeters tall with a 6-millimeter diameter, is used in a gauge for mining operations. It contains Caesium-137, a radioactive substance.

Officials confirmed that the capsule cannot be weaponized, and the risk to the greater public is relatively low. However, anyone who happened to get near it was at risk of “serious health consequences,” including radiation burns or sickness.

The government of Western Australia released this graphic showing the size of the metal capsule.
Government of Western Australia DFES

The capsule was packaged for transportation on Jan. 10 in the state of Western Australia. It was driven to Perth, in the southern part of the state, and unpacked on Jan. 25. Inspectors found the gauge had been broken apart with screws and a bolt also missing in transit.

Authorities spent days trying to find where along its 1,000-km journey it went missing. Crews drove along Australia’s Great Northern Highway at slow speeds to try to find the capsule, using survey meters that detect radiation levels to try and locate it.