South Australian police have issued a warning after a device containing radioactive material was stolen from a building site in Adelaide’s inner south

Davies

A 3430P Troxler plus enhanced nuclear moisture density gauge.

South Australian police have issued a warning after a device containing radioactive material was stolen from a building site in Adelaide’s inner south.

Key points:

  • The enhanced nuclear moisture density gauge was stolen from a building site at Eastwood
  • Police have warned the thief or thieves not to dismantle it
  • A radiation expert said the radioactive material was safely sealed but could be fatal if tampered with

The machine, a Troxler 3430P plus enhanced nuclear moisture density gauge, went missing from a building site at Eastwood over the weekend.

Police said anyone attempting to dismantle the gauge “could expose themselves to radioactive material”.

On its website, equipment company Troxler said the devices are commonly used by “contractors, engineers, and highway departments”.

They are used to measure the density of substances and “for compaction control of soil aggregate, concrete and full-depth asphalt”.

The instruments, which emit neutrons, can contain radioactive elements californium as well as americium, which is commonly found in smoke detectors in much smaller doses but can be more radioactive than plutonium.

Police have urged anyone with information about the robbery to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Radiation expert Kent Gregory, from Radiation SA, said while the devices were “reasonably intrinsically safe”, they could be potentially lethal if dismantled, and were much more radioactive than household smoke detectors.

“By the order of 1,000 times or even more,” Dr Gregory said.

“There have been occasions these things have ended up going through recycling facilities and turned into doorknobs and metal toilet roll holders incorporating the radioactive material.”

Dr Gregory said the density gauges were commonly used by road builders to effectively x-ray the ground, and check whether “the right level of compaction has occurred, and the right level of moisture is in the ground before asphalt is applied”.

“When I worked for the EPA (Environment Protection Authority) for 10 years, I think two or three got stolen in that time,” he said.

“You’ve got to be very, very careful about making sure these [radiation] sources remain sealed.”

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