Radioactive Material Found in China

BEIJING (AP) - Investigators have recovered potentially lethal
radioactive material that was lost during the demolition of a
cement plant in northwest China, an official said Friday.

A radioactive lead ball that belonged to a specialized nuclear
scale used for making precise measurements was found in a nearby
steel mill.

It was lost after the 53-year-old Shaanxi Qinling Cement Co. was
torn down Monday in the Tongchuan city in Shaanxi province, the
official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua said the ball contains Caesium-137, a radioactive isotope
whose radiation is capable of damaging the nervous system, causing
infertility and possibly death.

A publicity official with Qinling Cement, who just gave his name
as Mr. Gao, said Friday the government investigation team found the
scale in the mill.

"The production facilities were auctioned to a company called
Sichuan Kangna. The company staff mistook the scale for steel
scraps and sold it," he said.

Xinhua said the investigators combed through area waste
collectors before detecting radioactivity around the steel plant.

Wang Xuhui, a researcher with the Xi'an-based Northwest
Institute of Nuclear Technology, said the products of the plant
were safe, while most the caesium-137 element had been mixed in the

Technicians are cleaning the contaminated mill to ensure there
is no threat to the environment.

Xinhua said the cement plant was dismantled for failing to meet
environmental protection standards.

Local environmental protection and government officials were not
immediately available for comment.

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