Lost radioactive ball found in China

Potentially lethal radioactive material lost during the demolition of a cement plant in north-west China has been found in a nearby steel mill, the Associated Press reported. The lead ball contains caesium-137, a radioactive isotope capable of damaging the human nervous system. It was part of a specialised nuclear scale used for making precise measurements.


The item was lost early last week when the Shaanxi Qinling Cement Company was torn down in Tongchuan city in Shaanxi province, according to the Xinhua News Agency. A Qinling Cement official said a team of government investigators had detected radioactivity around the steel plant, leading them to the ball.


“The [cement] production facilities were auctioned to a company called Sichuan Kangna,” the official said. “The company staff mistook the scale for steel scraps and sold it.” Investigators combed through area waste collectors in search of the material. In addition to damaging the nervous system, caesium-137 also can cause infertility and possibly death.


Technicians are cleaning the contaminated mill to ensure there is no threat to the environment. Xinhua said the cement plant was dismantled for failing to meet environmental protection standards.


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