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Australia aims for bigger fines a week into Outback hunt for radioactive capsule


SYDNEY: Authorities in Australia will review laws that penalise the mishandling of radioactive material with a A$1,000 (US$707) fine as a search for a hazardous capsule lost in the Outback enters a seventh day.

Officials from Western Australia’s emergency response department, defence authorities, radiation specialists and others are combing a 1,400km stretch of highway for the tiny capsule, from a mining device, that was lost in transit more than two weeks ago.

The radioactive capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed being transported from Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region to a facility in the suburbs of Perth – a distance longer than the length of Great Britain.

The penalty for failing to safely handle radioactive substances is A$1,000 and A$50 per day the offence continues, according to state legislation from 1975.

“That figure is ridiculously low but I suspect that it’s ridiculously low because people didn’t think such an item could be lost,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told a news conference in the state capital, Perth, referring to the fine.

The silver capsule, 6mm in diameter and 8mm long, contains Caesium-137 which emits radiation equal to 10 X-rays per hour.

“It shouldn’t have been lost,” Albanese said.

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