MARTINSBURG -- A device that contains some radioactive material was lost in the Martinsburg area on Friday, and someone may have picked it up, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday.
The radioactive material in the portable moisture-density gauge is sealed, according to a news release from the NRC.
"As long as the sources are in the shielded position, the gauge would present no hazard to the public," the NRC said in its statement. "However, any attempt to tamper with the radioactive sources in the device could subject the person trying to do so to be exposed to an unshielded radioactive source, which could result in potentially dangerous radiation exposure."
An employee with Valley Quarries Inc. of Chambersburg, Pa., used the Troxler Model 3430 gauge at a job site near Martinsburg on Friday morning, according to the NRC. The worker put the gauge in the bed of his pickup truck and drove about a mile and a half, said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.
The worker then realized that his truck's rear gate had opened and the device was missing. He and a co-worker tried to find the gauge along the route, but could not. Valley Quarries' radiation safety officer said that a different company's employee reported seeing someone pick up and drive off with what appeared to be the gauge.
The gauge contains about 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241. Its rectangular base is bright yellow, and there is a plunger-type handle protruding from the top of the gauge. When not in use, the handle is normally locked, with the source in the retracted, safely shielded position.
Anyone seeing the gauge should leave it alone and report its location to the NRC's Operations Center at 301-816-5100, the NRC said. The center is staffed 24 hours a day and accepts collect calls.
Also, Valley Quarries is offering a reward for the return of the gauge. The company's radiation safety officer, John Englerth, can be reached at 717-729-1804.