Device containing radioactive material found at pawn shop, suspe - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Device containing radioactive material found at pawn shop, suspect in custody

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The device was found at East Coast Pawn, and a suspect is reportedly in custody. (WFSB) The device was found at East Coast Pawn, and a suspect is reportedly in custody. (WFSB)
A typical moisture-density gauge (NRC) A typical moisture-density gauge (NRC)

A device containing radioactive material reported stolen from a company in Bridgeport was found at a pawn shop in the city on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, HAKS Material Testing Group reported that the device was stolen from a technician’s vehicle while it was parked on Douglas Street in Bridgeport.

The car’s trunk was broken into, and chains securing the portable moisture-density gauge were cut and the device was taken.

On Tuesday, authorities said they might have an idea of who stole it and released surveillance video of a man trying to use stolen credit cards. He is possibly the same man who took the device.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Bridgeport officials said the device was found at East Coast Pawn, and a person was in custody. That person's name has not yet been released.

The device is common and is used for soil testing or in road construction, officials said, adding that they are often stolen because people think they can get a lot of money for them, but that isn't the case.

The release continued to say that as long as the sources containing the material are in the shielded position, the gauge would present no hazard to the public.

Officials said any attempt to tamper with the sources could subject the person to radiation exposure.

"If someone were to break it open and this radioactive material be in close proximity, for extended period of time, it could cause them some physical harm," said Neil Sheehan, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The device is worth about $7,000, but has no value.

“The device contains small amounts of cesium-137 and americium-241. The gauge is used to make measurements by projecting the radiation from the two radioactive sources into the ground and then displaying the reflected radiation on a dial on its top,” a press release said.

"The gauge, which is stored in a robust transportation case, consists of a shielding container with a plunger-type handle protruding from the top. The handle is used to extend and then retract the radioactive sources from the shielded position. When not in use, the handle is normally locked, with the sources in the retracted, safely shielded position. The rectangular base of the gauge is yellow," the press release said.

Anyone seeing the gauge was told to leave it alone and report its location to the NRC’s

Operations Center at (301) 816-5100. The center is staffed 24 hours a day and accepts collect calls.

An NRC inspector was expected to be sent to the company’s offices to gather more information on the loss of the gauge.

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