AP is reporting that six people involved in the theft of radioactive materials are hospitalized in Pachucha, Mexico, with police blocking the hospital so they cannot escape arrest.
The International Atomic Energy Agency stated the cobalt-60 “could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged.” http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/mexicoradsource.html
Direct exposure to the radioactive isotope could result in death within minutes stated IAEA
On Monday night thieves stole a cargo truck loaded with a shipment of radioactive cobalt-60. Monday’s theft triggered alerts in Mexico, as well as at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Authorities did warn that whoever stole the materials was probably contaminated and would die.
The original intended truck driver said he left Tijuana on Nov. 28 and was headed to the storage facility in another part of Mexico. On Monday night he was sleeping in the truck while parked at a gas station in Tepajaco. Two armed men approached the truck around 1:30am, Tuesday morning. The thieves forced the driver out, tied his hands and feet, and left the driver in a vacant lot near the gas station.
Concerns went up this week that the stolen materials could have been used to make a dirty bomb. Dirty bombs are conventional explosives that disseminate radioactive materials.
Later in the week the truck was abandoned in an empty rural field, with the radioactive shipment container open. The radioactive cobalt-60 pellets are a risk to the surrounding population. Sources report the materials were from antiquated chemotherapy therapy equipment, and were to be transported to a nuclear waste facility.
Police now believe the truck was stolen for the crane and a movable platform, and the thieves likely initially were not aware of the radioactive cargo.
For a few days this week the truck and thieves whereabouts were unknown, and concern in the international atomic community was very high.
United Nations says their nuclear watchdog division receives more than 100 reports of unauthorized activity of nuclear or radioactive materials annually. their nuclear watchdog division receives more than 100 reports of unauthorized activity of nuclear or radioactive materials annually.