Portable Nuclear Gauge Missing In Pennsylvania After Thieves Steal Vehicle
Nikolay Chekalin via Getty Images
Nikolay Chekalin via Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is asking the public for assistance in locating a missing portable nuclear gauge that went missing after thieves stole a vehicle that has since been recovered.

According to authorities, left untouched, the device cannot do any harm. However, if it is disturbed, the device could leak radiation to those around it.

“It is critical for anyone who has information about the lost nuclear gauge to contact local authorities or DEP,” DEP Bureau of Radiation Protection Director David Allard said in a press release. “As long as the device is not tampered with or damaged, it presents no hazard to public safety.”

The press release noted that the “gauge containing sealed sources of radioactive material … belongs to KAKS and Company LLC of Harleysville, PA.”

“This type of nuclear gauge is commonly used to evaluate the properties of building and road-bed materials at construction sites throughout the commonwealth,” the press release noted. “The radioactive material contained within the gauge is believed to be in a safe, shielded position.”

A photo of the missing gauge can be seen here:

“Anyone who finds the gauge should not handle it directly, but rather maintain distance, limit time of proximity, and immediately contact local authorities or the DEP’s Southeast Regional Office at 484-250-5900,” Pennsylvania’s DEP added. “A trained individual will recover the gauge.”

This is now the second time in less than a year that a nuclear gauge has gone missing in the Keystone State.

In October 2021, authorities asked the public for help in locating a similar device after a worker at CMT Laboratories “inadvertently departed the job site without properly securing the gauge in its case.” That device was found and returned safely.

A description of the missing nuclear gauge can be found here:

The nuclear density gauge is a Troxler Model 3440, serial number 31109. The gauge is yellow in color and about the size of a shoe box, with an electronic keypad and a metal rod extending from the top surface. The Troxler gauge contains approximately 8 millicuries of Cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of Americium-241. The radioactive material is in a double encapsulated source capsule within the device to protect its integrity.

The Environmental Protection Agency provided more details on what these kinds of devices actually do:

Nuclear gauges measure three main things: thickness, density, and fill level. Thickness gauges are used in manufacturing to make sure an entire product or material is the same thickness throughout, or to make sure the coating on a material is even. Density gauges are used in cement, petroleum, and road production to make sure that the density of a material is the same. Level gauges measure how much liquid is in a container, to make sure that each container has the same amount of product.


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