SYDNEY, Feb. 1 (Reuters) – Australian authorities on Wednesday found a radioactive capsule lost in the vast Outback after nearly a week-long search along a 1,400 km (870 mi) stretch of highway, an emergency services official said.

The military verified the capsule and it would be taken to a secure facility in the city of Perth on Thursday, Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said at a news conference.

“If you look at the scope of the survey area, locating this object was a monumental challenge. The search groups literally found the needle in the haystack,” Dawson said.

The radioactive capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed from Rio Tinto’s (RIO.AX) Gudai-Darri mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region. The ore was taken to a factory on the outskirts of Perth – a distance longer than the length of Britain.

Officials from Western Australia’s Emergency Department, defense authorities, radiation specialists and others have been combing a stretch of highway for the small capsule that was lost in transit more than two weeks ago. read more

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Officials said the capsule apparently fell off a truck and landed on the side of the road, adding that it was

unlikely that there will be contamination in the area.

The silver capsule, 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long, contains caesium-137 that emits radiation equivalent to 10 x-rays per hour.

People had been told to stay at least five meters (16.5 feet) away from the capsule if they saw it, as exposure could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness, although driving past is believed to pose a relatively low risk is similar to taking an X-ray.

Reporting by Lewis Jackson; writing by Praveen Menon; Edited by Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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