Dangerous Radioactive Material was Stolen and Found in Mexico
Dangerous radioactive material, used in cancer-treating medicine, was stolen, along with the truck that was carrying the teletheraphy source containing cobalt-60. Tepojaco, a town in the central state of Hildago, was the scene of the crime. The capital, and six of Mexico’s 31 states, were put on alert on Dec. 3, and Mexican authorities were able to recover the material on Thursday of the same week, which had been abandoned in a field.
The family that came across the capsule — two centimeters in diameter — was monitored for health risks after handling the potentially dangerous device, found 0.6 miles away from the truck. The device was later isolated and taken to its original destination at a waste storage facility. However, when the family discovered the open medical device they brought it into their home, which could have potentially led to their deaths due to contamination emitted by the hazardous material.
“We will have to keep this family under medical watch for the sole reason of being near a certain distance from the source,” The National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards operations director Mardonio Jiménez told Milenio television, without indicating how many members there were.
Five hundred meter safety perimeters were set around the hazardous material after it was found 43 miles north of Mexico City in Hueypotia. The radioactive source was called “extremely dangerous” by U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. Two gunmen stole the truck from a service station. The theft which inadvertently led to attention being brought to potential risks that 60 grams of cobalt-60 — the amount that was stolen — which is enough to build crude “dirty bomb,” though thieves only wanted the truck.
National Security is monitoring the situation, and authorities are still search for the thieves. Meanwhile, the 40,000-population town of Hueypoxtla was reassured that the source is far from the populous. Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said that the Mexican public is safe and will remain that way. The IAEA and CNSNS claim that there are no signs of contamination in the area.
The transport company is being blamed for the incident, failing to have a security escort with the truck as it attempted to make the drive from the hospital in Tijuana.