In what appears to be an embarrassing breach of its own rules, the Canadian agency that oversees nuclear safety lost a sample of cesium-137 in its downtown Ottawa office building for three weeks.Cs-137 can be used to calibrate dosimeters and for instrumentation and medical applications. The small sample in question, described by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission as low-activity and low-risk, had been used during an exercise training students how to find hidden nuclear material. The Ottawa Citizen reported Thursday that the cesium was left in the training room June 26 and found by other agency staff members July 17.The Citizen reported the CNSC is reviewing its policies, and an investigation is underway.
UPDATE: The CNSC issued the following press release:
"On Tuesday, July 17, 2012, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) staff recovered three low-level radiation check sources containing cesium-137 used by CNSC staff for a routine demonstration to summer students held on June 26. The demonstration involved check sources being purposely hidden and students finding them with Geiger counters. The check sources, which are sealed sources typically used to determine if radiation detection equipment is functioning correctly prior to use, were accidentally left behind in the CNSC meeting room at 280 Slater Street.
The amount of radioactivity in the low-level radiation check sources in question is approximately the same as that found within household smoke detectors. The source itself is about the size of a head of a pin, inside a sealed container no bigger than a loonie and is designed to be safely handled by hand.
At no time was there a risk to the health or safety of CNSC staff or the general public.
The CNSC holds itself to the same high safety standard as it would for its licensees. This situation occurred as a result of poor administrative procedures, and to prevent a similar situation from happening again, the CNSC is conducting an audit and will prepare a management response on strengthening procedures."
-- Peter, Nuclear Street News Team