Radioactive capsule that fell off truck found in Australia

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Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. a needle in a haystack / ə ˈnid l ɪn ə ˈheɪˌstæk / (idiom) – something that is impossible to find

    Searching for a missing person in a huge crowd is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

  2. detect / dɪˈtɛkt / (v.) – to notice or discover something that's not easy to see, hear, etc., sometimes with the use of a tool or equipment

    The dogs were trained to detect bombs and other explosives.

  3. prolonged / prəˈlɔŋd / (adj.) – continuing for a long time

    His prolonged absence from work caused delays in some projects.

  4. scour / skaʊər / (v.) – to search through a place or an area carefully to find something

    We scoured the forest for our missing dog.

  5. unknowingly / ʌnˈnoʊ ɪŋ li / (adv.) – not aware of what’s happening

    She unknowingly picked up the wrong bag at the counter.


Read the text below.

Authorities in Western Australia recovered a tiny but dangerous radioactive capsule that fell off a truck while being transported along a 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) Outback highway last month in what an official said was like finding a needle in a haystack.

Officials said the capsule the size of a pea was found south of the mining town of Newman on the Great Northern Highway. It was detected by a search vehicle traveling at 70 kilometers (43 miles) per hour when specialist equipment picked up radiation emitting from the capsule.

Portable search equipment was then used to locate it 2 meters (6.5 feet) from the side of the road.

“This is an extraordinary result … they have quite literally found the needle in the haystack,” said Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson.

Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson said the capsule did not appear to have moved and no injuries had been reported.

It contains the caesium 137 ceramic source, commonly used in radiation gauges, which emits dangerous amounts of radiation, equivalent of receiving 10 X-rays in an hour. It could cause skin burns and prolonged exposure could cause cancer.

Search crews had spent six days scouring the entire length of the highway.

The capsule measures 8 millimeters by 6 millimeters (0.31 inches by 0.24 inches), and people have been warned it could have unknowingly become lodged in their car’s tires.

A government investigation has been launched into how the capsule fell off the truck and a report will be provided to the health minister.

Defense officials were verifying the identification of the capsule, which has been placed into a lead container for safety. It will be stored in a secure location in Newman before being transported to a health facility in the city of Perth.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Authorities will conduct an investigation and will provide a report about how the capsule fell off the truck. What do you think is the purpose of conducting investigations and reports for incidents like this? Discuss.
  • What penalties should be given to the company responsible for the incident (ex. suspension, fine)? If somebody got injured, how do you think the company can take full responsibility? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In your opinion, how could the incident have been prevented? Discuss.
  • Do you think the government should also be responsible for incidents that involve private companies? Why or why not? Discuss.