Thieves Steal Truck Carrying Radiactive Material

A stolen truck that was carrying radioactive medical equipment has been recovered by Mexican authorities. The dangerous cargo was being hauled to the Radioactive Waste Storage Center in Maquixco when the truck was stolen while parked at a gas station in Tepojaco.

The radioactive material, Cobalt-60, is used for medical reasons, but can also be used to make “dirty bombs” - weapons where conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source.

The equipment containing Cobalt-60 shown here as it was loaded onto a vehicle that was later stolen. The equipment containing Cobalt-60 shown here as it was loaded onto a vehicle that was later stolen.

The driver of the truck reported he was sleeping in the truck when he was awoken by two men, armed with guns, at around 1:30 a.m. They forced him out of the vehicle and tied his hands and feet and left him in the parking lot as they drove off in the 2007 Volkswagen cargo truck.

The truck was located in a remote area about 25 miles from where it was stolen. The Cobalt-60 was located about a half-mile away from the vehicle, along with the empty protective lead container. Authorities believe they recovered most of the radioactive material.

Officials said they don’t believe the radioactive material was the target of the thieves and believe the two men had no idea what they were stealing. The two men are most likely suffering from radiation exposure.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN nuclear body, says there are more than 100 incidents of thefts and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive material each year. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, at a 2012 nuclear security summit, spoke about the effects dirty bombs can have. In his speech, Amano said, “These materials, such as cobalt-60, could be used along with conventional explosives to make so-called dirty bombs. A dirty bomb detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences.”

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