– Cobalt-60 theft: Lorry transporting radioactive cargo found EMPTY in Mexico, but hijackers expected to die within days (Independent, Dec 5, 2013):
A lorry that was stolen while transporting a deadly cargo of highly-radioactive cobalt-60 has been found empty in Mexico.
The lorry was found in a car park near the small farming town Hueypoxtia – close to where it was hijacked while the toxic material was being transferred to a hospital to be used in cancer treatments.
The discovery has prompted fears that the missing haul could be used by terrorists to create a “dirty bomb”, with the cobalt-60’s radiation levels high enough to cause mass panic and some loss of life if detonated in a major city.
Investigators said that they believe the identity of the thieves will emerge over the coming days, but revealed they are not expecting it to come as a result of a police investigation.
Instead, the level of radiation the thieves would have been exposed to while handling the cobalt-60 would have been so intense that they may have only days to live – and it could be just hours before they are forced to seek hospital treatment. In fact, according to Juan Eibenschutz, director of the Mexican Nuclear Agency, direct exposure to cobalt-60 could result in death within a few minutes.
In an interview with Associated Press, Eibenschutz said local hospitals have been asked to report anyone treated for exposure.