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December 16, 2009

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Radiation scare at sterilizing plant

A RADIOACTIVE device used to sterilize herbs and spices caused a scare in October when a broken container prevented its return to a storage shaft. It was later made safe and there was no danger to the public, experts attending a conference in Guangzhou about the incident said.

The cobalt-60 device was installed at Guangzhou Research and Development Center for Irradiation Technology in Guanghzou's Panyu District, Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News reported yesterday.

More than 100,000 people live around the site, said the newspaper, and most had no idea about October 12 accident though local authorities released a notification online.

Staff at the center were moving containers of herbs and spices to the irradiation room for sterilization when one of the containers broke and blocked the shaft.

Some material spontaneously combusted on October 19. Robots were used to remove the blockage on October 22.

The device was finally returned to the shaft on November 28, the report said.

Cobalt-60 is used to kill bacteria and other pathogens, without product damage. After radiation ceases, the product is not left radioactive.


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