Missing radioactive device: Cops say no indication disappearance linked to terrorism

Mohd Azam Shah Yaacob

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no indication that the disappearance of a Radioactive Dispersal Device (RDD) on Aug 10 had anything to do with terror activities.

Selangor police chief Datuk Mazlan Mansor said, however, the matter was still under investigation.

He said investigators had yet to establish how the device, which emits Gamma and Beta rays, could have gone missing.

The case, he said, was classified under Section 379 of the Penal Code for theft.

Mazlan said police were working closely with the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to locate the RDD.

“We were made to understand that the device contains Iridium-192 and could pose a health risk to anyone who is exposed to this radioactive material for a certain period of time. Among the symptoms (of radiation poisoning) are dizziness, vomiting and nausea if exposed to less than 500 millisieverts (mSv).

“Any exposure to a dose that is higher than 500mSv and a person will suffer deterministic effects such as burns to the skin,” he said in a statement.

(The millisievert is a radioprotection unit measuring the radiation dose received either from a radioactive source or from other sources like X-rays in medicine.)

Mazlan urged those with information about the missing RDD to contact investigating officer Assistant Superintendent Yong Meng Heng at 019-5753399 or the nearest police station.

The New Straits Times had reported in an exclusive article that police and AELB have been frantically searching for the 23kg RDD since it went missing.

The device, an Industrial Radiography Equipment, contains the radioactive isotope Iridium-192, which emits beta and gamma radiation as it decays during its estimated half life of 73 days.

Police and the AELB were concerned that it may fall into the hands of terrorists or militants, or those who treat it as metal to be dismantled and sold for a quick buck.

The device, with a market value of RM75,000, belonged to a company offering test, calibration and inspection services to the oil and gas industry, as well as power plants, manufacturing, automotive and transportation sectors, among others.

Sources had told the NST that two technicians of the company had loaded the device into the back of the company’s pick-up truck for a task in Seremban.

They completed the task and left Seremban for their office in Shah Alam at 2am. When they arrived an hour later, they discovered the device missing from their Nissan Navara.

The duo told investigators that the tailgate of their vehicle was already lowered when they reached their office.

They had said the device could have fallen out during their drive back to their office, adding that they had retraced their journey in an attempt to recover the device.

They also told investigators that they did not stop during the journey to their office.

One of them alerted AELB and the highway operator, Plus Malaysia Bhd, which helped scour the stretch between the Senawang and Seafield toll plazas.

The NST had learnt that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) did not find any sign that the tailgate had been pried open.

Investigators found that the tailgate’s locking mechanism was in good condition, saying that it was not possible for it to “unlock” by itself.

Doubtful of the technicians’ story, police arrested them and obtained a remand order to hold them. The duo, however, were later released as no criminal elements were traced to them, including their possible involvement in terrorism or militancy. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd