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Authorities are asking for the public’s help in finding potentially dangerous radioactive materials stolen from an oil and gas exploration truck in Alice. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported that the theft of the nuclear materials took place on Friday night. Investigators said six lead containers containing the radioactive materials were kept in a clear plastic bag placed inside the truck’s toolbox. Each metal container is shrink-wrapped and contains a glass vial of ceramic granules called radioactive tracer “sand” used by ProTechnics, a Houston-based oil and gas exploration company. The company's truck was parked outside the Walmart store in Alice at the time of the alleged theft. The company is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the containers. DSHS officials said a person handling the containers or the sand could be at risk of radiation exposure.
Industry and research. Radioactive tracers have applications in industry. For example, a number of different oil companies may take turns using the same pipeline to ship their products from the oil fields to their refineries. How do companies A, B, and C all know when their oil is passing through the pipeline? One way to solve that problem is to add a radioactive tracer to the oil. Each company would be assigned a different tracer. A technician at the receiving end of the pipeline can use a Geiger counter to make note of changes in radiation observed in the incoming oil. Such a change would indicate that oil for a different company was being received.