According to a Nuclear Event Notification published today on the Nuclear Regulatory Commissions website a pellet of Cesium 137 was found on December 29,2016 near the southbound off ramp in Woodbridge, Virginia. The notification states that a law enforcement officers personal radiation detector alerted them, at which point additional resources were brought in. Radiation was measured at up to 50mR/hr at the source location. A radiation safety consultant was brought in and the pellet, which measured approximately 7 millimeters in diameter and 15 millimeters in length was discovered 1 inch below the surface. The pellet and some soil was removed, sealed and transported from the scene for further investigation.
Cesium 137 is responsible for many of the devastating effects and deaths caused by nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima among others. An incident in Brazil in 1998 caused several peoples death after finding a medical device and bringing it to scrap yard.This incident points out the extreme dangers of coming in contact with Cesium 137.
It is commonly used in medical devices and density gauges. These are sealed to prevent accidental exposure which could result in acute radiation sickness and death. There have been many other accidents involving this material which have caused great sickness and deaths over the last decade.
The big question now is “Where did this come from, and how did it get there?”.Cesium 137 would make a nasty device if terrorists ever got their hands on it. Even in small amounts it could kill dozens easily before anyone would know the problem, and hundreds if not thousands over a short period if radiation detection devices were not in place.
As of yet I am unable to get a response from the Virginia Dept. of Transportation concerning the incident. If I do I will update you.
UPDATE, The spokesperson for the VDOT says that the incident was not made public because the agency’s brought in who deal with the radiation hazards informed them that there was no danger from such a small amount and dose, so they did not want to cause any public panic over a misunderstanding.
We will just have to wait and see for now.
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