A truck carrying extremely dangerous radioactive material in Mexico has been stolen. Mexican authorities have alerted the public and notified the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency has offered support to Mexico. There is no proof yet that the truck was headed toward the U.S.
U.S. officials working with Mexican authorities
The truck was full of the radioactive isotope cobalt-60, which is often used in radiotherapy. According to ABC News, the vehicle is a Volkswagen Worker and has the license plate 726-DT-8. Neither Mexico nor the IAEA have disclosed how much cobalt-60 the truck was carrying. The truck loaded cobalt-60 from a hospital in Tijuana, and was headed to a radioactive waste storage center. The heist occurred on Monday in Tepojaco near Mexico City.
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Though the cobalt-60 in the truck was properly shielded, but it could prove extremely dangerous if the shielding is removed or damaged. It can easily be used to make a so-called “dirty bomb.” According to Reuters, a dirty bomb doesn’t cause a large loss of life. But militants can use dirty bombs to terrorize the public.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement officials said they are aware of the situation. U.S. authorities are working closely with Mexican officials. Border officials have also been alerted. It’s still not known who stole the dangerous material or if they know what they have stolen.
Mexico incident not unique
The IAEA has earlier said that more than 100 such incidents involving radioactive and nuclear material are reported to the watchdog every year. In 2012 alone, the IAEA was alerted to 24 cases of theft of nuclear materials and 17 incidents of selling or illegal possession of dangerous radioactive materials. Most of the incidents have taken place in regions that were once parts of the Soviet Union. For example, many people were arrested in Moldova in 2011 while selling weapons-grade uranium.
Authorities have taken major steps to prevent nuclear materials from getting into the wrong hands, especially after the September 2001 attack.