Stolen radioactive cobalt-60 shipment found in Mexico ‘had been opened’

 

Mexico City

Officials have begun the delicate task of recovering a stolen shipment of highly radioactive cobalt-60 abandoned in a field in central Mexico.

The material, which the International Atomic Energy Agency called “extremely dangerous,” was found removed from its protective container. The pellets did not appear to have been damaged or broken up and there was no sign of contamination to the area, the agency said, quoting Mexican nuclear safety officials.

Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards, said it could take at least two days to get the material safely to a waste site.

“It’s a very delicate operation,” Mr Eibenschutz said. “What’s important is that the material has been located and the place is being watched to guarantee no one gets close.”

He said the pellets are inside an unbroken copper cylinder about 4 inches (10cm) long and 1.2 inches in diameter.

The missing shipment was found on Wednesday near where the stolen truck transporting the material was abandoned in central Mexico.

The atomic energy watchdog said the material has an activity of 3,000 curies. This places it in Category 1, with the most high-risk sources. An IAEA spokesman said it would “probably be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period in the range of a few minutes to an hour”.

Hospitals were on alert for people with radiation exposure, though none had been reported by late Thursday, Mr Eibenschutz said.

Mardonio Jimenez, a physicist for Mexico’s nuclear safety commission, said those who exposed themselves to the pellets could not contaminate others. The family that found the empty container that had shielded the material were put under medical observation but are thought to be unharmed.

“The container is not radioactive and it wasn’t contaminated,” Mr Eibenschutz said. The cobalt-60 was missing for nearly two days before being found near Hueypoxtla, a farm town of about 4,000 people. The site was cordoned off but officials said residents were not at risk.

“What we are trying to do is put [the cobalt-60] in a receptacle that can contain its radioactivity and send it [to the nuclear waste site] to be confined,” Mr Eibenschutz said.

Alerts had been issued in six Mexican states and the capital when the cargo went missing, and also with customs officials to keep the truck from crossing the border, he said.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory