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MEXICO: Theft of truck containing radioactive materials causes international alert

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December 4, 2013

The theft of a truck with a dangerous medical radioactive material in Hidalgo, in central Mexico, Wednesday generated alert Mexican authorities, U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) .
Mexican authorities reported to the IAEA that the truck carrying cobalt-60 used in therapy device of a hospital in the city of Tijuana, was stolen in the early hours of December 2 when it was transported to neighboring State of Mexico.
“At the time of the theft of the truck, the source (radioactive) was properly sealed,” the IAEA a  statement . “However, the source can be extremely dangerous to a person if the seals are removed, or if they are damaged.”
Mexico alerted the IAEA theft following international protocol for such incidents , said Jaime Aguirre Gomez, deputy director of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards.
The Department of Homeland Security United States said Wednesday that it is working with their Mexican counterparts in the investigation of the theft.
Radioactive material was used in radiotherapy for cancer treatment at a hospital in Tijuana, in northern Mexico, and was no longer in use, he said.
The shield that protects the cobalt-60 is designed so that the radioactive source is difficult to remove, Aguirre said. The housing is designed not to be easily opened or perforated. Cobalt-60 can be used for both medical and industrial purposes, he said.
The vehicle left the Tijuana November 28, on a planned travel distance of about 2,750 kilometers. The driver, Valentin Ortiz Escamilla said he stopped in a parking lot of a gas station to rest when at approximately 01:30 pm (local) two men assaulted him and forced him out of the truck, Notimex reported.
Once it was reported stolen, the Attorney General indicated that Hidalgo initiated an operation to search for the vehicle and the stolen material in which the governments of Querétaro and Mexico State, Hidalgo collaborated.



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