Thailand searches for missing radioactive cylinder

BANGKOK: Thai authorities are scrambling to find a cylinder containing dangerous radioactive material that went missing from a power station, officials said on Tuesday (Mar 14), warning of serious health risks from direct exposure.

Staff at the coal-fired plant in Prachinburi Province, east of Bangkok, noticed the steel tube, 30cm long and 13cm wide, was missing during routine checks on Friday.

A weekend search failed to locate the 25kg tube containing highly radioactive Caesium-137, said Kittiphan Chitpentham of the National Power Supply Public Company, which owns the plant.

The company believes it may have fallen from a wall mount, about 18m high, days earlier.

Radiation tests at the plant show that it has been taken off the premises.

“We are asking people in the area to help find it,” Prachinburi governor Narong Nakornjinda told AFP.

“The radioactive material was in a closed and protected condition, but if someone opens it and is exposed to the substance, it could cause a rash and burns.”

The missing cylinder is part of a device used to measure steam pressure at the plant. Officials have not said how much Caesium-137 is inside it.

The Office of Atoms for Peace – the Thai government agency responsible for nuclear research – said the plant was using surveillance footage to try to identify who took the cylinder, and warned against opening it.

“If someone breaks the cylinder, when you are directly exposed to it, you could be exposed to a high risk of cancer and serious illness, so please don’t break the cylinder,” said Office of Atoms for Peace Secretary Permsuk Sutchaphiwat.

The missing cylinder follows an incident in Australia where authorities said that after a two-week search they recovered a tiny radioactive capsule that had fallen off a truck on a remote outback highway in mid-January.

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