Thursday, December 05, 2013

Stolen cobalt-60 found abandoned in Mexico; three day survival for thieves

A missing shipment of radioactive cobalt-60 was found Wednesday near where the stolen truck transporting the material was abandoned in central Mexico state, the country's nuclear safety director said. The highly radioactive material had been removed from its shipping container, officials said, and one predicted that anyone involved in opening the box would be dead within three days. The cobalt-60l was found in an empty lot about a kilometer (a half a mile) from Hueypoxtla, an agricultural town of about 4,000 people, but it posed no threat or a need for an evacuation, said Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards. "Fortunately there are no people where the source of radioactivity is," Eibenschutz said. Commission physicist Mardonio Jimenez said it was the first time material like this had been stolen and extracted from its container. The only threat was to whoever opened the container and later discarded the pellets of high-intensity radioactive material that was being transported to a waste site. It had been used in medical equipment for radiation therapy. "The person or people who this took out are in very great risk of dying," Jimenez said, adding that the normal survival rate would be between one and three days...more

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