Australia wants to increase punishments after a week of looking for radioactive capsules in the Outback.
As the seventh day of a seven-day search for a dangerous capsule that a mining company lost in the Outback nears, authorities in Australia want to make it harder for people to handle radioactive materials in the wrong way.
A 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) section of highway is being searched by representatives from Western Australia’s emergency response department, the defence establishment, radiation experts, and other groups in search of the tiny capsule that was lost in transit more than two weeks ago.
The radioactive capsule was a component of a gauge that measured the density of the iron ore feed coming from the distant Gudai-Darri mine operated by Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO). The ore was being transported more than the length of Great Britain to a plant in Perth’s suburbs.
A state statute from 1975 stipulates that failure to handle radioactive materials securely carries a $1,000 fine and a $50 daily fine.
In reference to the fine, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “That number is extremely low, but I suspect that it’s ridiculously low because people didn’t think such an item could be lost.”
Caesium-137, which emits radiation equivalent to 10 X-rays per hour, is contained in a silver capsule that is 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long.
It shouldn’t have been lost, according to Albanese.
On Monday, Rio Tinto expressed regret for the defeat. It had trusted specialised packers and transporters with the package.
Amber-Jade Sanderson, the state’s minister of health, stated during the news conference that her administration planned to boost fines and penalties for cost recovery in such cases.
We are looking at ways to raise the present fine system since it is too low, according to Sanderson.
She claimed the investigation indicated ineptitude, not conspiracy, was to blame for the loss.
Authorities believe that the capsule fell out because vibrations from the rocky route caused screws and a bolt on the gauge to go free. When the gauge was being unpacked for inspection on January 25, the disappearance of the capsule was detected. The gauge had been removed from the mine site on January 12.
Even while driving past the capsule, which is thought to pose a relatively minimal risk, similar to getting an X-ray, people have been advised to keep at least five metres (16.5 feet) away from it if they see it.
State Police Commissioner Col Blanch told reporters on Tuesday that police had considered filing charges in connection with the lost capsule but came to the conclusion that there was no case to answer.
“We’ve approached it from the standpoint of an investigation to see if there was criminal conduct involved.” “That’s not the case; we have pretty much established everything,” he told the press.
$1 is equal to 1.4152 Australian dollars.