Radioactive material stolen from foundry

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The Independent Online

Poland's state nuclear agency said yesterday a small amount of radioactive cobalt stolen from a foundry in the east of the country is too small to pose a risk. The theft of between five and seven containers with cobalt-60 was discovered last month during stocktaking at the bankrupt and shuttered Ursus foundry in Lublin.

Spokeswoman Monika Skotniczna said the cobalt – used in machines that made technical measurements – did not pose a threat to the public due to the quantity and its age.

"These are old sources, so they don't have high activity," Ms Skotniczna said. The only danger is if the cobalt-60 is taken out of its lead shields, but even then "it's not life threatening", she said.

Although cobalt can be used to make a "dirty bomb", Ms Skotniczna said the quantity stolen was too small to make anything dangerous.

"The amount is too small. It is useless for terrorists," she said. She said the containers, weighing dozens of kilograms each, were probably stolen by scrap-metal thieves.

Poland has informed the European Union and neighbouring countries of the theft, in line with international regulations. Croatia's state-run Institute for Radiological and Nuclear Safety said it has asked customs services to be extra vigilant.

Germany's federal police and customs agency said it was not aware of the reports of the stolen cobalt and border controls had not been changed.

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