Thailand Finds MIA Radioactive Capsule, but Uh-Oh

Cylinder with cesium-137 turns up at Thailand steel foundry, but it appears to have been crushed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2023 9:00 AM CDT

It would be really great if people could keep tabs on the radioactive capsules they have hanging around. First, a tiny one filled with cesium-137 went missing earlier this year in Western Australia, though it's since been found. Now, a larger cylinder containing the same radioactive isotope has turned up in Thailand after disappearing from a power plant in the Prachin Buri province on March 10, though Quartz frames it as a good news/bad news situation. The good news: Well, obviously, that the steel capsule used to measure ash has been found, as an excited Facebook post from a Prachin Buri government office noted on Sunday.

Per the Nation Thailand, the cylinder was discovered that same day after radioactivity readings were picked up at the province's largest steel foundry. Now, the bad news: The capsule wasn't intact, and the detected readings were from scrap metal that had already been compressed and was ready to be smelted. Bloomberg notes that the 55-pound capsule was likely crushed. Work at the foundry was brought to a stop, and all employees were told to vacate the premises. They'll be urine-tested and monitored for possible radiation exposure.

A perimeter was also installed to keep anyone else from entering. Ronnarong Nakornjinda, the province's governor, tells Nation Thailand it appears the cylinder was stolen by someone who wanted to pawn it to a junk shop. He warns that making contact with cesium-137—which has a half-life of about 30 years and can stay in the environment for three centuries—can be harmful to the skin, liver, and bone marrow. Angry citizens are putting up NSFW social media posts on the matter, while officials are offering a nearly $1,500 reward for anyone who may have information on what happened with the capsule. (More Thailand stories.)

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