FedEx Facilities on Radioactive Alert: Box Arrived at Destination Missing 4 Sealed Containers of Germanium-68 (GE-68) Radioisotope

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WGN-TV Report: “Not enough to make a nuclear weapon.” (Translate? Not enough to make a dirty bomb?)

UPDATE: The contents were radioactive rods that are used to calibrate hospital CT scanners, and were found in Knoxville.

A FedEx package with radioactive GE-68 is reported missing on its trip from North Dakota to Tennessee, according to a report from WGN-TV. GE-68 is Germanium with the Atomic Weight of 68.

DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT: A PACKAGE CONTAINING SEALED GE-68 RADIOACTIVE SOURCES WAS SHIPPED FROM FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA TO KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE. DURING TRANSIT THE PACKAGE BECAME WET AND WHEN THE PACKAGE WAS DELIVERED IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT A BOX CONTAINING 4 GE-68 SEALED SOURCES TOTALING 684 MBQ AS REPORTED BY THE RECIPIENT WAS MISSING. THERE WERE TWO OTHER CONTAINERS OF GE-68 IN THE PACKAGE WHICH WERE RECEIVED.

— Excerpt from U.S.Nuclear Regulatory Commission

[An MBQ is a Megabecquerel or 1 Million Becquerels (SI/Le Système International d’Unités/International System of Units). The becquerel (symbol Bq) is the SI derived unit of radioactivity. One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second. The Bq unit is therefore equivalent to s−1 (1 per second). The becquerel is named for Henri Becquerel, who shared a Nobel Prize with Pierre and Marie Curie for their work in discovering radioactivity.]

GE-68 The parent isotope germanium-68 is the longest-lived (271 days) of the radioisotopes of germanium. Radioisotopes is a name used by chemists and physicists for a radionuclide, which is an atom with an unstable nucleus. The nucleus of the atom has excess energy which is available for a newly-created radiation particle in the nucleus, or available to an atomic electron. A radionuclide in the energy change is known as undergoing radioactive decay and emits gamma rays and/or subatomic particles. The emission of gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet energy from the short wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum is ionizing radiation.

The immediate hazard of ionizing radiation was recognized in 1896 when electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla intentionally subjected his fingers to X-rays, and recognized burns that developed. The damaging effects of radiation on genetic material was not recognized until 1927 by Hermann Joseph Muller.

Ionizing radiation is invisible and is not directly detectable by human senses, so instruments such as Geiger counters are usually required to detect its presence. Radiation can cause emission of visible light in some materials. Exposure to radiation causes damage to living tissue, and high doses can result in mutation, radiation sickness, cancer, and death.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission lists the following emergency procedures for unsealed exposure to GE-68.

The following is a guide for first responders. The following actions, including remediation, should be carried out by qualified individuals. In cases where life threatening injury has resulted, first treat the injury, second deal with personal decontamination.

Personal Decontamination Techniques
Wash well with soap and water and monitor skin
Do Not abrade skin, only blot dry
Decontamination of clothing and surfaces are covered under operating and emergency procedures

Spill and Leak Control
Alert everyone in the area
Confine the problem or emergency (includes the use of absorbent material)
Clear area
Summon Aid

Emergency Protective Equipment, Minimum Requirements
Gloves
Footwear Covers
Safety Glasses
Outer layer or easily removed protective clothing
Suitable respirator selected

See more …
WGN-TV FedEx package with radioactive material is missing

Bureau International de Poids et Mesures — bipm.org/en/si/

National Institute of Standards and Technology — NIST.gov

NIST Publications — physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/bibliography.html

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