Radioactive material lost in China: state media

Authorities in China have ordered an all-out search for a missing nuclear scale that contained a dangerous radioactive component, state press said Friday.

The scale, used to make precision measurements, was found to be missing on Monday after workers began dismantling a cement factory where it was used in Tongchuan city in northwest China's Shaanxi province, Xinhua news agency said.

A lead ball containing extremely dangerous Caesium-137 was a major component of the scale, it said.

Local government offices in Shaanxi could not be immediately reached for comment on the issue.

The report did not say how much Caesium-137 was missing but warned that only a tiny amount could damage the human nervous system and even lead to death. The material could also explode if it comes in contact with water, it added.

The provincial environmental protection agency and police have issued urgent orders to find the radioactive material which may have been buried in up to 5,000 tonnes of scrap waste from the factory, the report said.

In a later report, Xinhua said environmental officials had found Caesium-137 radioactivity at a steel refinery in Shaanxi's Fuping county, but it was not immediately known whether it was from the missing material.

"Although radioactivity was detected at a steel refinery in Fuping county, it is not necessarily linked to the missing radioactive material," the report quoted an environmental protection official as saying.

"We must make a full confirmation."

The steel refinery had bought 265 tonnes of scrap metal from the dismantled cement factory and has already melted it down, the report said.

Police and environmental officials had spread out to all scrap metal yards and several steel refineries in the area and were testing for radioactivity, the report said.

Source: AFP

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