Vomiting road workers hospitalized after exposing mysterious nuclear waste
Road workers began vomiting and were hospitalized Wednesday after being exposed to suspected nuclear material, unearthed during a highway upgrade in Australia.
Meanwhile the country's nuclear authority was scrambling for answers after the apparent radioactive waste was uncovered on the Pacific Highway south of Port Macquarie, in New South Wales.
The material, said to include cesium, is believed to have been buried after a truck carrying radioactive isotopes from Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor crashed in the area in December 1980, The (Sydney) Daily Telegraph reported. The isotopes are believed to have been destined for the US.
The upgrade's project manager, Bob Higgins, said the workers became sick after unearthing a strange clay-like material, according to Australian Associated Press.
"As we've taken down the cutting there we exposed the face of the existing material [and] came across a clay material that when it's exposed to air it gets an orange streak through it," he told ABC Radio.
"There were a number of workers that felt a little bit of nausea and there was a bit of vomiting when they were in close proximity."
Specialists in the area were assessing what to do with the radioactive materials, and if they pose any further risk.
And in scenes akin to a Hollywood disaster film, officials from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANTSO) -- the government agency behind the Lucas Heights reactor -- were digging through 30-year-old files for information.
"We are currently going through our archives to find out ourselves," a spokesman said about the details of the 1980 crash. "We're also ringing old-timers," who used to work at the reactor, he added.
But if conspiracy websites are to be believed they may not find much.
Several anti-nuclear blogs claim at the time 16 people near the crash site suffered from radioactive poisoning and accused ANSTO's predecessor the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the then Health Commission of a cover-up.