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Authorities Sound Alarm After Radioactive Cylinder Goes Missing from Power Plant

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Authorities in Thailand expanded their search Wednesday for a metal cylinder with radioactive contents that has gone missing from a power plant, warning the public that it poses a danger to health.

The 12-inch-long cylinder containing the radioactive material Caesium-137 was discovered missing Friday from a piece of machinery at a steam power plant in Prachinburi province, 60 miles east of Bangkok.

Ake Wongjinda, a public relations officer for the provincial government, said Wednesday that authorities have inspected locations such as junk shops, scrap metal yards and secondhand stores in Prachinburi and neighboring Chachoengsao province for the 55-pound cylinder.

Health officials cautioned the public that prolonged direct contact with radioactive material can cause skin rashes, hair loss, canker sores, fatigue and vomiting.

They said short-term contact with Caesium-137 might not show immediate symptoms but could lead to a higher risk of cancer.

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Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn, director-general of the Department of Medical Services, said Caesium-137 has similar physical characteristics to salt and can disperse easily if its container is opened.

He said it is used in devices such as ones measuring humidity or the velocity of liquids.

The cylinder was connected to a 56-foot-tall silo and was used for measuring ash in the silo, said Permsuk Sutchaphiwat, secretary general of Thailand’s Office of Atoms for Peace agency.

Kittiphan Chitpentham, a representative of the National Power Supply Public Co., the power station’s owner, said it is not clear whether the cylinder had gone missing by accident.

He said that the company would provide a $1,445 cash reward for anyone who can provide information about it.

The company said it might have disappeared several weeks ago.

In 2000, illegally disposed canisters containing the radioactive substance Cobalt-60 were found in a junkyard in Samut Prakarn, a suburb of Bangkok.

At least five people were hospitalized after being exposed to radiation when the canisters were opened by the scrapyard workers, unaware of the hazard.

The cylinders were believed to have come from a medical X-ray machine.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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