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Truck Carrying Extremely Dangerous Radioactive Material Stolen in Mexico

Radioactive waste stolen in Mexico
Sullivan/Getty Images

Officials believe the thieves were after the vehicle, not the payload.

Mexican officials are intently searching for the large load of Cobalt-60 which was inside a cargo truck stolen from Tepojaco, in the Hildago state north of Mexico City November 28th.

The driver had stopped at a gas station and was resting in the truck around 1:30a.m. when two masked gunmen tied him up and took the truck.   Officials say it’s likely the criminals had no idea what was onboard.    The Cobalt-60 was dangerous radioactive material from obsolete medical equipment headed for disposal.  Much of Mexico’s x-ray and other medical equipment have been vastly upgraded with less dangerous components.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened.   Mexican police say numerous thefts of radioactive materials have occurred, but they later find out the vehicle was the target!  Several such thefts have resulted in the metal containers in the vehicles being sold for scrap, which results in recycling workers coming in contact with the radioactive materials when they are later opened.   Many steel mills and recycle facilities now have Geiger Counters on-site so they can check metal containers before accepting them.

In this latest case,  officials say if anyone is successful in opening the large lead container,  exposure to the waste would immediately be fatal, it’s that deadly.   The size of the load was not revealed, but officials say it’s the biggest amount of radioactive material ever stolen in the country.

The U.S. Border Patrol has been alerted and is scanning vehicles at crossing stations for any traces of radiation.   It hasn’t happened yet, but Mexican authorities say the waste could be used to make a “dirty” bomb,  which is harmful radioactive materials combined with conventional explosives to spread the payload.

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