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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss