Quantcast
  

Saturday, April 19, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 7 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

6 suspects in cobalt-60 theft tested for radiation exposure

By E. Eduardo Castillo

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:07 p.m. HST, Dec 06, 2013


MEXICO CITY >> Six people being tested for possible radiation exposure in a hospital in central Mexico are suspects in the theft of highly radioactive cobalt-60, a government official said today.

The official said the six were arrested Thursday and taken to the general hospital in Pachuca for observation and testing for radiation exposure. Once they are cleared, they will be turned over to federal authorities in connection with the case of a cargo truck stolen Monday at gunpoint that was carrying the extremely dangerous material.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. He did not specify how the six were allegedly involved in the theft.

Hidalgo state Health Minister Pedro Luis Noble said Friday that the six suffered from skin irritations and dizziness, but that none are in grave condition and may be released soon. Only one was vomiting, a sign of radiation poisoning.

But based on the tests, "none are showing immediate signs of radiation poisoning," Noble told Foro TV.

The cobalt-60 theft triggered alerts in six Mexican states and Mexico City, as well as international notifications to the U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. It raised concerns that the material could have been stolen to make a dirty bomb, a conventional explosive that disseminates radioactive material.

The atomic energy agency said the cobalt has an activity of 3,000 curies, or Category 1, meaning "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."

But Mexican officials said that the thieves seemed to have targeted the cargo truck with moveable platform and crane, and likely didn't know about the dangerous cargo. The government official would not give details or location of Thursday's arrest nor names or ages of the suspects.

The six were arrested by Hidalgo state police, said state attorney general's spokesman Fernando Hidalgo.

The driver of the truck, who had stopped to rest at a gas station early Monday when the theft occurred, said two armed men made him get out, tied his hands and feet and left him in a vacant lot.

Hidalgo said he didn't know how or if the others were involved.

The truck was found abandoned Wednesday about 24 miles from where it was stolen, and the container for the radioactive material was found opened. The cobalt-60 pellets were left about a half mile from the truck in an empty rural field, where authorities said they were a risk only to anyone who had handled them and not to anyone in Hueypoxtla, the closest town of about 4,000 people. There was no evacuation.

The material was from obsolete radiation therapy equipment at a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana and was being transported to nuclear waste facility in the state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City.

Authorities maintained a 500-yard cordon around the site where the cobalt-60 still remains in the state of Mexico and continued to work Friday to extract it safely, said Juan Eibenschutz, director general of Mexico's National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards.

"It's quite an operation and it is in the process of being planned," he said. "It's highly radioactive, so you cannot just go over and pick it up. It's going to take a while to pick it up."

Federal police blocked access Friday to hospital where the six were held.







 Print   Email   Comment | View 7 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

COMMENTS
(7)
You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
richierich wrote:
Justice served. Gotta love it.
on December 6,2013 | 09:21AM
what wrote:
Maybe they'll sue because the device was not sufficiently marked with warnings that it was deadly radioactive.
on December 6,2013 | 10:00AM
Nevadan wrote:
It looks like the driver did not know what he was carrying. Unfair !!!
on December 6,2013 | 03:01PM
paniolo wrote:
Are they "glowing?"
on December 6,2013 | 12:50PM
false wrote:
Once they put them in a dark room and see the, glowing they won't be suspects anymore. Talk about babooz!
on December 6,2013 | 01:37PM
Dizzle wrote:
Scary Mexico side down there
on December 6,2013 | 02:10PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Once you start vomiting after non localized cobalt 60 exposure your pretty much a goner....
on December 6,2013 | 02:27PM
IN OTHER NEWS
Breaking News