Deadly radioactive cylinder goes missing near major tourist hotspot

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A radioactive cylinder has gone missing from a power plant, leaving authorities in the nearby area to search desperately before it potentially causes severe harm to the public.

It first became apparent that the cylinder was missing from the coal-fired plant in Thailand’s Prachinbri province when staff raises the alarm on Friday.

The cylinder is used for measuring ash and is filled with Caesium-137 – a radioactive substance commonly used to calibrate radiation gauges.

The material is dangerous if anyone is exposed to it.

Now, authorities near the plant – which is located 60 miles east of Bangkok – are frantically looking for the cylinder.

The National Power Supply Public Company said that an extensive search over the weekend didn’t lead to any success.

It is believed that the cylinder may have fallen from an 18-metre-tall wall mount days earlier. Radiation tests at the plant indicate that it was taken off the premises.

Drones and search teams have all been sent out to search for the cylinder, while the Officials at the Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) said they are using radioactive detection to establish its location.

Deputy Secretary General Pennapa Kanchana said: “We are searching in waste recycling shops in the area.

“We are (using) survey equipment to detect for signals. For areas we cannot reach, we have dispatched drones and robots.”

As scrap yards and secondhand shops are scoured in an attempt to find the cylinder, health officials in Thailand have warned that anyone who comes in direct contact with it could suffer from skin rashes, hair loss, canker sores, fatigue, and vomiting.

Caesium-137 can also lead to a higher risk of cancer, but symptoms may not show straight away.

The governor of Prachinburi added: “We are asking people in the area to help find it.

“The radioactive material was in a closed and protected condition, but if someone opens it and is exposed to the substance, it could cause a rash and burns.”

Kittiphan Chitpentham, a representative of the National Power Supply Public Company, the power station’s owner, says it is not known whether the cylinder went missing because it was taken, or if it was just misplaced.

The firm is offering a 50,000 baht (£1,200) cash reward for anyone who provides information that helps authorities find the cylinder.

Prachinbri province is a big tourist hotspot with a population of nearly half a million people.

People flock to the area for some of Thailand’s best national parks and other attractions.

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