Somewhere in West Texas is a 7-inch radioactive cylinder that Halliburton would like to find. Anyone who comes across it is advised to keep their distance.
The oil field services company lost track of the device, which is used to assess potential sites for hydraulic fracturing, on Tuesday (Sept. 11) while trying to transport it from Pecos to a well site near Odessa 130 miles away. A special unit of the Texas National Guard has now stepped in to aid Halliburton in a search for the cylinder, according to Bloomberg.
“It’s not something that produces radiation in an extremely dangerous form,” said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “But it’s best for people to stay back, 20 or 25 feet.”
The tool that Halliburton lost contains a mixture of beryllium and americium-241, the same radioactive isotope of americium that is found in very small quantities in a common type of smoke detector.
“In the presence of beryllium, the alpha particles [emitted by americium-241] will react to form neutrons,” explained Tom Hei, associate director of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research. “For alpha particles, you can put a piece of paper in front of it and will provide adequate shielding. Such is not the case for neutrons, which require significantly more shielding or a longer distance from the source for adequate protection.
Source: Live Science