How Australia's lost radioactive capsule was found

STORY: Packed sandwiches, the radio on, all while rolling through the vast desert of Western Australia sounds like an idyllic road trip.

But that was how a search team scoured the outback this week for a Caesium-137 capsule a highly radioactive device smaller than a coin, that had vanished in the outback.

It fell off the back of a truck driven by mining firm Rio Tinto in early January.

And anyone in close proximity to the capsule for an hour, would have got a dose equivalent to 10 chest X-rays.

The Caesium capsule was eventually found on Wednesday.

Bronte Sial, a health physicist for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, told Reuters regular radiation emergency training helped avoid dangers linked to collecting the device.

“It's one thing using your detectors to find the device, it's the other thing is having the right personnel who know how to safely control, safely collect the item and what to advise."

“Once all our teams were there, we gave each other a big celebration. We're very excited.”

The weeklong search, up and down an 870-mile stretch of road, involved around 100 people in vehicles equipped with radiation detection sensors. Another main challenge, Sial said, was avoiding the traffic.

“The danger for us mainly was the fact that if it was near a road, the consequences of the road traffic. Because there's a lot of B-double trucks, large, heavy rigid trucks moving. That was more the concern than the (radioactive) source for any individual person.”

Another crucial tool: Sial said while searching for a dime-sized device in the outback, it also helps to have the right music.

“My teammate was in charge of the playlist, there was only one condition. I just said, make sure we don't have any electronic sounds while we were there because our instruments are sometimes more of an electronic beat kinda thing, if they do go into alarm. So, I think we just had Stone Temple Pilots.”