ANSTO instrument finds radioactive ‘needle in a haystack’

Radiation specialists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) were behind the successful detection and retrieval of a missing radioactive source in outback Western Australia.

Working with the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), Defence, and the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), they located the miniscule-sized source using a suite of equipment including ANSTO’s custom-developed radiation detection and imaging technology.

ANSTO’s radiation detection equipment mounted in the back of the vehicle travelling at 70 kilometres per hour detected the presence of gamma rays emitted from the radiation source, missing along a highway 1,400 kilometres long.

The source was then found two metres from the roadside on the Great Northern Highway near the town of Newman.

The technology was a modified version of ANSTO’s CORIS360 (pictured) which was developed by Chief Technology Officer and Principal Scientist of ANSTO’s Detection and Imaging unit Dr David Boardman.

The CORIS360 technology produces fast, precise, and high-quality 360-degree images that pinpoint the identity and location of radiation in an area, whilst minimising the need for workers to stay within a radiation environment.

Launched in 2020, the CORIS360 has been demonstrated to agencies and organisations that support nuclear operations and national security activities globally.

ANSTO Group Executive for Nuclear Safety, Security, and Stewardship Group Dr Miles Apperley said: “Prior to deployment, ANSTO staff performed drive-by test runs of the detection equipment at Lucas Heights using an equivalent radioactive source activity, and evaluated different speeds and terrain conditions to ensure we could confidently detect the missing capsule.

“The sensitivity of the modified CORIS360 technology gave us the confidence it would be found.”

Dr Apperley said Australia may have a small nuclear programme, but the country was a sophisticated nuclear nation and in many ways.

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic MP said: “It’s fair to say finding a piece of equipment the size of a button in a vast desert was no easy task.”

Further reading:

Picture: ANSTO/CORIS360 mounted in vehicle

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