US police have warned of a radioactive contamination threat after a portable nuclear gauge went missing from a stolen car in the state of Pennsylvania.
On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) asked the public for assistance in the search for a gauge “containing sealed sources of radioactive material.” According to the statement, the device belonged to Pennsylvania-based KAKS and Company LLC, which provides services in construction inspection and soil testing.
The department did not specify when exactly the car and the gauge, which is “commonly used to evaluate the properties of building and road-bed materials at construction sites,” were stolen.
“The gauge had been secured in a vehicle stolen in Philadelphia. When the vehicle was recovered, the gauge was no longer inside and may have been discarded,” reads the statement.
The department emphasized that normally the gauge does not pose any danger. However, if the device is badly damaged or struck by a vehicle, “there is potential for damage to the radioactive source and spread of contamination.” Therefore, the DEP recommended that anyone who finds the gauge be extremely careful, not touch it or remain near it for long and “immediately contact local authorities.”
This is not the first case of the DEP reporting missing nuclear devices. In October 2021, the DEP and state police assisted in the search for a similar gauge, with the owner offering a $1,000 reward for its return. The gauge was apparently later recovered.
Similar incidents took place in 2016, 2013 and 2010.