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Missing radioactive element from ONGC facility poses no danger: Authorities

The missing isotope — which was only 2.5 curie — was kept inside a lead container, meaning the gamma rays released by it would be completely suppressed

Rajamahendravaram: The missing mild radioactive substance from an Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's (ONGC) storage facility at its base camp in Rajamahendravaram, Andhra Pradesh, poses no danger to the local people, authorities said, two days after the material, which was worth Rs 27 lakh, went missing. The missing isotope — which was only 2.5 curie — was kept inside a lead container, meaning the gamma rays released by it would be completely suppressed, officials said. According to a report published in a national daily, the substance, identified as a few grams of Caesium-137 (CS-137), was reported missing from a truck that transported the isotope to the logging shed of the complex. ONGC has been using the material, the size of a small coin, as per the guidelines issued by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

'No danger'

“Because people might get scared and there was a need to bring the facts to the people because we are a public sector undertaking. Not only ONGC officials but even scientists from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) have stated that there is no danger due to the incident,” ONGC Asset Manager DMR Sekhar said. ONGC officials filed a complaint with the Bommuru police on Friday after the incident was detected during an internal audit the day before. “Even if you take the substance out of the container, its effect will only be felt in a 2-metre radius. There are reports doing the rounds that it will react with the air and might explode. This is totally false. It is not explosive material at all,” one official explained.

What is Caesium?

According to the United States' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Caesium is a soft, flexible, silvery-white metal that becomes liquid near room temperature, and the most common radioactive form of the substance is Cs-137, which is produced by nuclear fission. It is also one of the byproducts of nuclear fission processes in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.“