Device reported stolen from construction site in Prince George’s County, not a hazard as long as radioactive material remains locked
Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of the Environment is issuing a public notice that a gauge containing a small, sealed amount of radioactive material has been reported to have been stolen from a highway project site in Prince George’s County.
A Troxler Model 3440 portable moisture density gauge was reported stolen yesterday from a state highways project. The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration reported the theft to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
The device contains small amounts of cesium-137 and americium-241. The gauge is used to make measurements by projecting the radiation from the two radioactive sources into the ground and then displaying the reflected radiation on a dial on its top.
The gauge, which is stored in a heavy transportation case, consists of a shielding container with a plunger-type handle protruding from the top. The handle is used to extend and then retract the radioactive sources from the shielded position. When not in use, the handle is normally locked, with the sources in the retracted, safely shielded position. The rectangular base of the gauge is yellow.
If the sources are in the shielded position, the gauge presents no hazard to the public. However, any attempt to tamper with the radioactive sources in the device or handle unshielded sources outside their container carries a risk of potentially dangerous radiation exposure.
Anyone with information about the location of the gauge should avoid handling it and immediately report its location to the Prince Georges County Police Department at 301-352-1200, the Maryland Department of the Environment at 866-633-4686 or the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Operations Center at 301-816-5100. The center is staffed 24 hours a day and accepts collect calls. A Department of the Environment inspector will gather more information on the loss of the gauge as law enforcement authorities continue to investigate the theft.