Authorities scramble to find radioactive cylinder stolen from power plant in Thailand

Photo via ThaiRath

Thai authorities are scrambling to find a steel tube containing the radioactive isotope Caesium-137 believed to have gone missing from a power plant at an industrial estate in Prachin Buri province in central Thailand on February 23.

Staff noticed the cylinder was missing on Friday and filed a record at Sri Maha Phot Police Station that day.

The company said that anyone with information on the Caesium-137’s whereabouts will be rewarded with 50,000 baht.

The substance is encased in a steel tube around five inches in diameter, eight inches long and weighs 25 kilogrammes.

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Staff at the plant said the radioactive isotope will not cause damage to health or the environment unless the cylinder is dismantled.

Caesium-137 is invisible and has no odour. Any body part exposed to the substance will suffer from necrosis (body tissue decay) from beta and gamma radiation.

Permsuk Sutchapiwat, secretary of the Office of Atoms for Peace – Thailand’s agency responsible for nuclear research – warned…

“If someone breaks the cylinder, when you are directly exposed to it, you could be exposed to a high risk of cancer and serious illness, so please don’t break the cylinder.”

According to the CDC

“External exposure to large amounts of Cs-137 can cause burns, acute radiation sickness, and even death. Exposure to Cs-137 can increase the risk of cancer because of exposure to high-energy gamma radiation.

“Internal exposure to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.”

National Power Plant 5A Co., Ltd., and the Office of Atoms for Peace set up a team of 50 people to search for the missing radioactive isotope but couldn’t find it anywhere on the plant grounds. They believe it has been taken away.

The team searched 26 locations in the Si Maha Phot district including scrap metal yards, second-hand shops and antique shops to no avail.

The team are expanding their search for factories in Chachoengsao which buy steel from scrap metal yards/factories.

Current assessments detect no presence of the substance in the immediate area.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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