A mining company in Australia stands to be charged with dumping toxic radioactive material.
Officials said the capsule the size of a pea was found south of the mining town of Newman on the Great Northern Highway. It was detected by a search vehicle travelling at 70 kilometers (43 miles) per hour when specialist equipment picked up radiation emitting from the capsule.
It contains the caesium 137 ceramic source, commonly used in radiation gauges, which emits dangerous amounts of radiation, equivalent of receiving 10 X-rays in an hour. It could cause skin burns and prolonged exposure could cause cancer.
The radioactive signal was obviously strong, which begs a question why a truck carrying it wasn’t equipped with sensors to detect dangerous loss of load.
It reminds me how coal trains in America were dumping huge amounts everywhere, as if dangerous loss of load has been business as usual for mining companies.
In 2009 a representative from the company testified before a federal review board. He was asked how much dust escapes from each coal train car during a 400 mile trip.
His answer? 645 pounds. Per car.
Coal has been transported via train for decades, yet little research has been done on the potential health effects for people who live near coal train routes.
Coal dust has been shown to coat the lungs of coal miners, contributing to problems like chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, cancer and death.
That article goes on to point out there are 125 cars in a typical coal train.
645 * 125 / 400 = ~200 pounds of coal dust being spread every mile by its train.
And when you read that the charge in Australia for this radioactive pollution case carries a penalty of less than $1000, is it any wonder why a giant corporation didn’t try to prevent such serious disaster?
Have there been other radioactive peas lost before and never reported?
At the very least the huge week-long search and clean expense should go directly to the mining company. Gross negligence and a disregard for public safety is putting it lightly.
The pea really shines a spotlight on just how little attention has been paid to huge pollution risks (safety and environmental integrity) around and in mining supply chains.