A cargo truck stolen early on Tuesday while transporting cobalt-60, a radioactive cobalt isotope, was found yesterday afternoon. The truck, along with its contents, had been abandoned in a rural area about a kilometer from the farm town of Hueypoxtla, Mexico, the National Post reported.
Mexican authorities had been searching urgently for the truck — and its contents — since it was nabbed by two armed men en route to a nuclear waste storage facility.
During the search there was some concern that the thieves had stolen the cobalt-60, originally used for radiation therapy in a Tijuana hospital, to make a “dirty bomb” — in other words, a bomb that uses conventional explosives to “disperse radiation from a radioactive source,” as per CBC News. However, the consensus now is that the men were only after the truck and its movable platform and crane.
Mardonio Jimenez, a physicist and high-ranking official with Mexico’s nuclear safety commission, told The Washington Post, “I believe, definitely, that the thieves did not know what they had. They were interested in the crane, in the vehicle.”
Unfortunately, in their ignorance, the men removed the cobalt-60 from its protective casing. Jimenez believes that as a result they will have “severe problems with radiation” and “will, without a doubt, die.” Residents of Hueypoxtla will not be affected.