01 February 2023

Radioactive capsule found in Pilbara

Emergency services have found a tiny radioactive capsule near Newman, ending a large-scale interagency search for the missing object.

The operation, led by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, spanned 1,400 kilometres from the outback to metropolitan Perth and yielded success in just seven days.

The tiny capsule - 8-millimetres high by 6-millimetres round - was located two-metres off the northbound roadside edge of Great Northern Highway at 11am today (WST).

It was discovered by a vehicle search crew which was using specialised radiation equipment.

The capsule has been safely recovered and is now being securely transported in a lead container to Newman for secure storage overnight before being taken to a WA Health facility in Perth tomorrow.

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM commended the extraordinary efforts of all agencies and personnel involved in the operation.

"We have essentially found the needle in the haystack," Commissioner Klemm said.

"When you consider the challenge of finding an object smaller than a 10-cent coin along a 1400-kilometre stretch of Great Northern Highway, it is a tremendous result.

"I want to thank everyone involved in the search - we called on a large number of agencies to assist and this was a great example of working together to achieve an outstanding result."

Western Australia's Chief Health Officer and Chair of the Radiological Council Dr Andrew Robertson said the chances of anyone being contaminated by the source were extremely remote.

"As I have mentioned previously, to be at risk of radiation exposure you need to be close to the source for a period of time," Dr Robertson said.

"If you were one metre away from the source for one hour, that would be the equivalent of receiving the radiation dose of 10 X-rays.

"This is a great result for the community of Western Australia."

Media contacts:

WA Health
T: (08) 9222 4333
E: media@health.wa.gov.au 

T: (08) 9395 9543
E: media@dfes.wa.gov.au