A truck carrying an “extremely dangerous” radioactive substance has been stolen in Mexico, the Associated Press reports citing the U.N. nuclear agency.
“Mexico’s ‘Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardias (CNSNS)’ said the truck, which was transporting the cobalt-60 teletherapy source from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage centre, was stolen in Tepojaco near Mexico City at around 08:00 UTC on 2 December 2013,” a statement by the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
Cobalt-60 is used in the treatment of cancer.
“At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded,” the statement added. “However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged.”
The EPA describes some of the other common uses of the material:
Cobalt-60 is used in many common industrial applications, such as in leveling devices and thickness gauges, and in radiotherapy in hospitals. Large sources of cobalt-60 are increasingly used for sterilization of spices and certain foods. The powerful gamma rays kill bacteria and other pathogens, without damaging the product. After the radiation ceases, the product is not left radioactive. This process is sometimes called “cold pasteurization.
Mexican authorities are still investigating.