Radioactive Material Goes Missing During Shipment Between Ohio and Michigan

A shipment of radioactive material being transported between facilities in Ohio and Michigan has gone missing, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

In a "Current Event Notification" report published on Thursday, the NRC said it had received an email from the Ohio Bureau of Radiation Protection stating that a shipment of Iridium-192 had not arrived at its destination in Michigan.

The report said the carrier believed the package had been delayed at their facility but later said it could not be located.

In its report, the NRC said: "Prime NDT Services, Inc. reported that a 64.7 Ci Ir-192 source was shipped via [the common carrier] on July 12, 2021 from their facility in Strasburg, Ohio to their facility in Michigan.

"As of July 21, the source has not been delivered by [the common carrier]. [The common carrier] is aware of the situation and believes that the package was delayed at their facility. On July 20, [the common carrier] informed Prime NDT Services, Inc. that the package could not be located."

According to its Facebook page, Prime NDT Services is a "nondestructive testing (NDT) services company for the oil and gas pipeline industry" based in Ohio.

Emporia Kansas Fire Department
Members of the Emporia Kansas Fire Department use a test meter to check for hazardous materials at a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiation, Nuclear) drill. The package that went missing is classified as a category 2 material. Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

In its note, the NRC referred to package as "Category 2" radioactive material.

"Category 2 sources, if not safely managed or securely protected, could cause permanent injury to a person who handled them, or were otherwise in contact with them, for a short time (minutes to hours)," it said.

"It could possibly be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of hours to days. These sources are typically used in practices such as industrial gamma radiography, high dose rate brachytherapy and medium dose rate brachytherapy."

Ir-192 is used in industrial gauges that inspect welding seams and in medicine to treat certain cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In medicine, it is used in the form of tiny seeds. For industrial purposes, pencil-like metal sticks of solid Ir-192 or small tubes that contain pellets of Ir-192 are used.

The CDC says exposure to Ir-192 may increase the risk for cancer due to high-energy gamma radiation which is emitted.

Were the substance to come into contact with skin, it can cause burns, acute radiation sickness and even death.

Internal exposure, such as if the pellets are swallowed, can cause burns in the stomach and intestines.

The CDC says long-term health effects of internal exposure would depend on how strong the seeds or pellets were and how long they stayed in the body.