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article imageLost Radioactive Nugget Found In China

By KJ Mullins     Mar 28, 2009 in Business
Last week a radioactive nugget was lost in China during the demolition of a cement plant in Tongchuan city in Shaanxi province. The lead ball was found in the mill on Friday.
The piece that was missing was a radioactive nuclear scale that is used in making precise measurements. That little nugget contains Caesium-137. The isotope's radiation can do a lot of damage to the human body if in the wrong hands. It is capable of destroying the nervous system, causing infertility and possible death.
AP reports:
"The production facilities were auctioned to a company called Sichuan Kangna. The company staff mistook the scale for steel scraps and sold it," Quinling Cement official Mr. Gao said.
The nugget was lost as the walls to a 53-year-old building came tumbling down Monday. Shaanxi Qinling Cement Co. had been auctioned off to Sichuan Kangna. The provincial environment protection department believes that the ball was mistakenly sold as scrap metal.
Experts scoured metal scrap yards and steel mills in pursuit of the radioactive material during the week.
When the radioactive material was located at Xingbao Steel and Iron Co. Ltd in Weinan City on Friday inspectors found high levels of radioactivity around a smelter and steel slags. The ball itself had been melted at the plant.
The contaminated smelter and steel slags are being cleaned so that they will not threaten the environment.
Nuclear Power Daily reports:
Wang Xuhui, a researcher at the Xian-based Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology, said the plant's products were safe, while most of the radioactive element had been mixed in the slags.
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