According to a Mexican government official, radioactive material that could be used to make a “dirty bomb” was found abandoned near an empty truck that was seized near Mexico City on Wednesday. Mexican police believe that common thieves stole the truck; the radioactive material, which could kill those exposed to it, had been removed from its case.
The truck was stolen on Monday as it was transporting cobalt-60 from a hospital in Tijuana to a radioactive waste-storage centre. The driver stopped for gas on Wednesday in Temascalapa, 35 km (22 miles) northeast of Mexico City. Fernando Hidalgo, spokesman for the Hidalgo state prosecutor, said, “Our suspicion is that they had no idea what they had stolen. This is a area where robberies are common,” said earlier.
Mexico’s national nuclear safety commission CNSNS released photographs of the cargo before it left the hospital, with a reinforced case that held the medical device which contained the cobalt-60. The hospital’s name was clearly marked on the box with the additional inscription “radioactive materials.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) , which has been trumpeting that its members make sure nuclear and radioactive materials go unattended, never mentioned the Mexico incident on Wednesday. The IAEA did not reveal how much cobalt-60 was in the box that was stolen, only stating, “At the time the truck was stolen, the (radioactive) source was properly shielded. However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged.”