BANGKOK — In Thailand, a steel canister with dangerously radioactive contents has vanished from a coal power plant and may have been missing for three weeks — or possibly longer. The search for it, which began a week ago, has expanded repeatedly but so far yielded nothing.
Globally, radioactive objects are lost fairly often, sometimes improperly discarded and posing a lethal hazard to people who find them. Their potential value to terrorists is another worry.
In this case, the power company operating the plant where the canister vanished has expressed concern that a scrap metal scavenger might have taken it to sell. Despite a cash reward for information leading to its recovery, there have so far been no signs of the 55-pound canister that is eight inches long and five inches in diameter.
It contained cesium-137, a dangerous isotope, said Narong Nakornjinda, the governor of Prachin Buri Province. Exposure to the substance, which is used in small amounts in various industrial devices in the form of a white crystalline powder, can cause cancer, burns, radiation sickness and death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.