Maverick Citizen

ISOTOPE SECURED

Gqeberha police confirm stolen radioactive material recovered at scrap metal dealer

Gqeberha police confirm stolen radioactive material recovered at scrap metal dealer
Gqeberha police have confirmed a cylinder housing radioactive material has been recovered after the thief tried selling it to a scrap metal dealer. (Photo: Supplied)

Gqeberha police confirmed on Tuesday that the owner had recovered a canister filled with radioactive material stolen from a car in the city on Friday.

Police have confirmed that a canister filled with radioactive material was recovered by its owner on Tuesday morning after the suspected thief tried to sell it to a scrap metal dealer.

The cylinder, containing iridium-192, was stolen from a vehicle at a guesthouse in Sydenham, Gqeberha. Police spokesperson Andre Beetge said it had not been opened and nobody had been harmed.

Beetge said the owner of the cylinder had distributed flyers in the area to alert the public about the situation.

“The scrapyard dealer contacted the owner via the numbers provided on the flyers that were circulated. According to the dealer, a man attempted to sell the item to them and when the dealer started to question him, he ran away.

“The canister was fetched by its owner at the scrapyard. According to them, it didn’t seem to have been tampered with,” Beetge said.

“No arrests have been made; however, the police are appealing to anyone with information that would assist in finding the suspect.”

Beetge said the owner of the cylinder owns a welding business and is from KwaZulu-Natal. The isotope is used to carry out X-ray welding inspections underwater.

“Their vehicle was parked in Mulder Avenue, Sydenham while they were at a guesthouse,” he said. It is believed that the cylinder was stolen at around 6am on Friday.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cylinder containing radioactive isotope stolen from car in Gqeberha

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, external exposure to iridium-192 can cause burns, acute radiation sickness and death.

Vandalism and the theft of scrap metal are rife in Nelson Mandela Bay and in November last year, the metro’s business chamber called for a state of disaster to be declared to help authorities to deal with the matter. DM

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  • William Dryden says:

    I recently heard a well known podcaster state that if the canister had been opened, the whole of Port Elizabeth would have been contaminated, which is rubbish. I have worked with Iridium-192 and it has very low emission and is used on thin walled vessel and piping. We used to have a 3 to 4meter radius around the object being x-rayed so as not to be exposed to any radiation. so for someone to state that the whole of PE would have been affected is somewhat sensationalism.

  • William Dryden says:

    Also in respects to Iridium -192 it has what is termed a halve life of some 3 to 6 month’s (i forget the exact time span) that means at the end of each half life the strength of the Isotope is reduced by 50% until it has no more power and is discarded or sent back for re charging.

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