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Mexican authorities recover stolen radioactive cobalt-60.

MEXICO CITY (CyHAN)- A stolen container carrying radioactive cobalt-60 was found near the capital city Wednesday, two days after it was reported missing, authorities said.

The container, which was opened, was found about 1,000 meters from the truck that had carried it, not far from where it was stolen, according to Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards (CNSNS).

The official said the material could not disperse and posed no risk to the public or the environment, but it could kill those who opened the container.

"It's almost sure the people who took this item are dead or about to die," he said.

The Cobalt-60 is a synthetic radioactive isotope of cobalt with a half-life of 5.27 years. It is used in radiotherapy to treat cancer and in industrial tools, such as leveling devices and thickness gauges.

It could also be used to make "dirty bombs", which combine radioactive materials with conventional explosives, and cause radiation contamination in areas around the explosion sites.

The truck was transporting the cobalt-60 from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage center, and was stolen in Tepojaco, central Mexico's Hidalgo State, Mexican authorities said in a report sent to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which announced the theft earlier Wednesday.

Federal police and military units put up a cordon of 500 meters around the site, an area CNSNS said was large enough to guarantee safety, as the material was located on a vacant lot in a rural area with low population density.

Experts with CNSNS and the National Nuclear Research Institute were trying to figure out how to secure the material and safely transport it to a storage site.

According to the IAEA, more than 100 incidents of theft and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials are documented annually. (Cihan/Xinhua)


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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Dec 5, 2013
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