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Stolen radioactive material may be fatal
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-11 01:32

A quantity of a potentially deadly radioactive substance, cesium-137, was stolen from a construction site in Pucheng County, Shaanxi Province, at least five days ago.

Police believe whoever took it may have confused the football-sized lead container used to store the cesium-137 with discarded metal scraps.

Cesium-137 is a very active radioactive metal that explodes when brought in contact with water. It is mainly used in photoelectronic batteries, vacuum valves and as a test tool in metal surveys. It can cause blood diseases, sterility and birth defects.

Local officials have asked anyone who finds the football-shaped container not to open it, put it in a safe place and report it immediately.

Police are already actively searching for the stolen material.

As soon as receiving the lost report, some 120 police officers and 80 local officials started searching more than two square kilometres site of the theft.

Local police officers have been searching in every house in two towns and 14 villages around the construction site. They have also prohibited all salvage stations in Pucheng County from purchasing cesium-137 and asked them to report anyone trying to sell it.

"As much as 5,000 yuan (US$602) will be given as a reward to any one who provides valuable clues to find the radioactive matter," local police said.

The theft has attracted the attention from the Shaanxi provincial government. A working group of experts with dedicated search equipment was sent to Pucheng. They have been working for five days, said Li Zhonghong, the group leader.

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