Theft of radioactive material in Mexico

McClatchy Foreign StaffDecember 4, 2013 

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency based in Vienna issued a statement this morning about the theft of a truck in Mexico that contained radioactive material.

Obviously, this has generated great concern because the material, cobalt-60, could be used in a “dirty bomb” if it got into the hands of terrorists.

Here is the text of the statement by the International Atomic Energy Agency:

"Mexico has informed the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) of the theft of a truck carrying a dangerous radioactive source used in medical treatment.

Mexico's "Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardias (CNSNS)" said the truck, which was transporting the cobalt-60 teletherapy source from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage centre, was stolen in Tepojaco near Mexico City at around 08:00 UTC on 2 December 2013.

At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded. However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged.

The Mexican authorities are currently conducting a search for the source and have issued a press release to alert the public.

The IAEA has made an offer of good offices to Mexico, a process that makes the IAEA available to provide assistance if requested by a Member State, and the IEC remains in contact with the CNSNS."

Various officials from Mexico’s National Commission on Nuclear Safety have been on the radio and television this morning asking Mexicans to keep alert for a Volkswagen Worker truck with a built-in crane. The material was bound from the Social Security Hospital in Tijuana to a nuclear waste facility between the states of Mexico and Hidalgo, when it was robbed by armed assailants at a gas station on the outskirts of Mexico City. The robbery occurred Monday.

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