Stolen items contained some nuclear material

Moisture-density gauge taken at a work site in Pikesville held small amounts, state says

March 18, 2006|By NICK SHIELDS

A device containing small amounts of nuclear material was stolen from a contractor's work site in Pikesville, state environment officials said yesterday.

The moisture-density gauge was reported stolen about 8:30 a.m. yesterday from the site in the 1700 block of Reisterstown Road, Maryland Department of the Environment officials said.

The device, a yellow Troxler Model 3430 with the serial number 23191, contains Cesium-137 and Americium-241, state officials said.

The gauge is used to measure moisture and compaction in soils, concrete, asphalt and other aggregates, said Ray Manley, of department's radioactive materials licensing and compliance division.

A padlock typically is used to secure the Cesium-137 source in its shielded position when not in use, state officials said.

Manley said he suspects that the device is in a locked position, meaning it would not pose a public-health risk.

The gauge costs about $6,000, said Ingrid Kalb of Professional Inspection and Testing Services Inc., which reported it missing. The firm has offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The device is about 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, state officials said.

One or two of the devices are stolen each year in Maryland, state officials have said.

In March 2002, a Troxler gauge was stolen from a construction site in Columbia.

Yesterday's theft doesn't appear to be cause for alarm, said John Steinbruner, director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"It's not going to be dangerous to the public," Steinbruner said. "It might be dangerous to an individual."

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call the Maryland Department of the Environment at 866-633- 4686 or Professional Inspection and Testing Services at 717-263- 7964.

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