Can containing radioactive isotope reported missing in northeastern China

Chinese authorities are searching for a can containing a radioactive isotope that went missing during transportation in the northeastern province of Jilin this week.

The can, about 20cm in height, was found to be missing on Monday, when a team of workers from a Daqing Oilfield drilling company were working in Songyuan, Jilin, Xinhua reported on Saturday, quoting company sources from Daqing Oilfield.

The can contained radioactive indium-113m, Daqing Oilfield said.

The case was reported immediately to city authorities in Songyuan.

Local police and the environmental protection agency launched a joint search for the missing can, the report said.

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Environmental protection specialists said the contents posed little threat to the environment, but excessive exposure could be risky to human health.

Police in Songyuan have offered a cash reward of 30,000 yuan (HK$34,885) for clues leading to its retrieval.

“Anyone who finds the can should contact the environmental protection authorities, and should not handle it,” a police notice said.

Commenters online questioned whether human negligence was involved.

“Is our monitoring of radioactive substances strong enough to prevent such a thing from happening again?” one online user asked.

“I think the management of radioactive substances is chaotic. I don’t think this is the first time for such an incident,” another user commented.

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In 2014, China ordered strengthened monitoring of high-risk radiation sources after a device containing the radioactive material iridium-192 was lost in Nanjing.

Iridium-192 is so deadly that even if a small amount comes into contact with the skin, amputations are required.

Nanjing authorities waited for 1 ½ half days before informing residents about the lost radioactive material.

Authorities at the time blamed workers at the Tianjin Hongdi Engineering Inspection Development Co for the loss.

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