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Missing nuclear scale is retrieved

A RADIOACTIVE device lost in northwestern China on Monday during the demolition of a cement factory has been found.

Technicians were now disposing of the lead ball containing Caesium-137, part of a nuclear scale used to make precise measurements, after it was found in Fuping County, Shaanxi Province, on Thursday, Xi'an-based Chinese Business View reported yesterday.

Caesium-137 is water-soluble and extremely toxic in minute amounts. Once released into the environment, it remains present for many years. Its radiological half-life is 30.23 years.

It can cause cancer 10, 20 or 30 years from the time of ingestion, inhalation or absorption provided sufficient material enters the body and can explode on contact with water.


The lead ball was reported missing during the destruction of equipment at a cement processing company in Shaanxi's Tongchuan City.

The Qinling Cement Co, established in 1956, was approved to be demolished by the provincial government after it failed to meet environmental protection standards.

A worker at the site discovered that the device was missing and informed the local authority.

A task force with dozens of officials from environmental protection, health, public security departments and other government agencies in Tongchuan traced trucks taking steel scrap from the factory and checked waste recycling markets in the area in their search.

It was feared it might have been among steel scrap sold to waste collectors.


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