BANGKOK (AP) – Authorities in Thailand expanded their search on Wednesday for a metal cylinder with radioactive contents that has gone missing from a power plant, warning the public that it poses a danger to health.
The 30-centimetre-long cylinder containing the radioactive material Caesium-137 was discovered missing last Friday from a piece of machinery at a steam power plant in Prachinburi province, 100 kilometres east of Bangkok.
Public relations officer for the provincial government Ake Wongjinda said on Wednesday that authorities have inspected locations such as junk shops, scrap metal yards and secondhand stores in Prachinburi and neighbouring Chachoengsao province for the 25-kilogramme-cylinder.
Health officials cautioned the public that prolonged direct contact with radioactive material can cause skin rashes, hair loss, canker sores, fatigue, and vomiting.
They said short-term contact with Caesium-137 may not show immediate symptoms but could lead to a higher risk of cancer.
Director-General of the Department of Medical Services Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn said Caesium-137 has similar physical characteristics to salt and can disperse easily if its container opened.
He said it is used in devices such as ones measuring humidity or the velocity of liquids.
The cylinder was connected to a 17-metre-tall silo and used for measuring ash in the silo, said secretary general of the Thailand’s Office of Atoms for Peace agency Permsuk Sutchaphiwat.
Representative of the National Power Supply Public Co Ltd Kittiphan Chitpentham, the power station’s owner, said it is not clear whether the cylinder had gone missing by accident.
He said that the company would provide a THB50,000 (USD1,445) cash reward for anyone who can provide information about it.
The company said it may have disappeared several weeks ago,
In 2000, illegally disposed cannisters containing the radioactive substance Cobalt-60 were found in a junkyard in Samut Prakarn, a suburb of Bangkok.
At least five people were hospitalised after being exposed to radiation when the cannisters were opened by the scrapyard workers, unaware of the hazard.
The cylinders were believed to have come from a medical X-ray machine.