Stolen nuclear gauge sought by authorities Material in device is radioactive

February 09, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Howard County police and the Maryland Department of the Environment are asking for help in finding a $5,000 nuclear gauge containing small amounts of radioactive material that was stolen from a construction site in Ellicott City over the weekend.

The yellow, 15- by 9- by 7-inch encapsulated device isn't life-threatening, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the department.

"It really isn't dangerous at all, as long as pieces of equipment haven't been tampered with," Mr. Goheen said.

Anyone tampering with the device could be exposed to small amounts of cesium and americium, which could cause skin irritation, he said.

"Our fear in a case like this is somebody will tamper with the device out of frustration," he said.

Mr. Goheen said he suspects that the thief or thieves stole the box containing the device thinking it was valuable. "It really has no value, only to the construction workers," Mr. Goheen said.

A yellow, pyramid-shaped box containing the gauge was stolen between 3:30 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Monday from a KCI Technologies trailer at a construction site at Ilchester and Bonnie Branch roads, police said. The thief or thieves also stole a tripod and a calculator valued at $125.

The gauge, used to measure soil density, is inside a portable box with U.S. Department of the Transportation stickers on the side, Mr. Goheen said.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 313-2236 or the Department of the Environment at 631-3300.

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