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Truck Carrying Radioactive Materials Hijacked in Mexico

Threat of 'dirty bomb' if dangerous materials fall into the wrong hands raises alarm

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Photo: Agence France-Presse)

A truck transporting dangerous radioactive materials that could be used in the construction of a "dirty bomb," was hijacked and stolen from a gas station on Monday near Mexico City.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who reported the incident to Mexican authorities, the truck was transporting radioactive cobalt-60, which is used in medical procedures, from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste-storage center.

"Apart from peaceful medical and industrial uses," Reuters reports, "experts say cobalt-60 can also be used in a dirty bomb in which conventional explosives disperse radiation from a radioactive source."

According to BBC News, the truck, which is still missing, is a 2.5-tonne Volkswagen Worker and was stolen by armed men at a gas station in Tepojaco.

The IAEA did not specify how much of the radioactive material was in the truck, but said the potential for the criminals to use the material in the construction of a more powerful crude fissile nuclear bomb is less likely than a less powerful, but still deadly, "dirty bomb."

However, as nuclear expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank told Reuters, cobalt-60 "has figured in several serious accidents, some of them fatal. If dispersed, cobalt-60 or other radioactive source material could cause radiation poisoning locally."

"A dirty bomb detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

Mexican authorities have alerted the public to the danger and are currently conducting an investigation into the whereabouts of the truck.

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