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Frantic search for missing radioactive device in Malaysia amid fears it may fall in wrong hands

Malaysian authorities have revealed an industrial device that contains an unknown amount of radioactive material has been missing for 10 days after it disappeared from the back of a truck on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Authorities from the police and Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) fear the device, which has been missing since August 10, contains an unknown amount of radioactive isotope Iridium- 192, could cause radiation exposure or be used as a weapon by militants, the local New Straits Times daily said, citing unnamed sources.

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The compound is safe as long as it is inside its lead-shielded casing; it emits beta and gamma radiation as it decays during its estimated half life of 73 days

The 23kg Radioactive Dispersal Device (RDD) belonged to a private company offering test, calibration and inspection services to the oil and gas industry, as well as power plants, manufacturing, automotive and transportation sectors.

Prior to going missing, the device had been loaded on the back of a Nissan Navara by two technicians employed by the company prior to making the one hour trip back from a job in Seremban to their their office in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of the capital.

Upon their return, they discovered that the device had gone missing, and after retracing their steps, one contacted both the AELB and Malaysian highway police to help with the search.

While the men, both in their 30s, were temporarily detained by police while an investigation was launched, they were released on Friday after forensic tests and investigations into possible terrorist links failed to come back conclusively.

READ MORE: Mexico put on alert as truck with radioactive materials gets stolen

However, the missing radioactive material, be it lost or stolen, continues to be a cause of concern if it falls into the hands of militants or terrorist groups who might try to build a crude nuclear device or a so-called “dirty bomb”, the United Nations atomic agency has warned.

Such a device combines nuclear material with conventional explosives to contaminate an area with radiation, in contrast to a nuclear weapon, which uses nuclear fission to trigger a vastly more powerful blast, Reuters reports.

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