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Medical Radioactive Material Truck Stolen In Mexico 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the 35-rads-per-gallon dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A medical radioactive material truck has been stolen just outside Mexico City. From the article: 'BBC world affairs correspondent Rajesh Mirchandani says Cobalt-60 could theoretically be used in a so-called "dirty bomb" - an explosive device that could spread radioactive material over a wide area - although there is no official suggestion this was the purpose of the theft. Mexican police are currently conducting a search for the truck and its contents and have issued a press release to alert the public to its potential dangers.'"
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Medical Radioactive Material Truck Stolen In Mexico

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  • Already found (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:21PM (#45603825) Homepage Journal

    Kind of embarrassing for Slashdot to post this now, considering the truck has already been found. Apparently the container was opened, but it appears (at least most of) the Cobalt-60 is still intact.

    Considering the infrastructure and expense required to ship something like this (special shielded containers, etc), why don't they include a tracking device? Even a cheapo cell phone can be used as a tracking device, which is better than nothing.

    • by WarJolt (990309) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:29PM (#45603885)

      We don't get embarrassed at Slashdot. We just post stuff and hope it gets moded up.

    • The NSA tracked it.

      They just responded to the Mexican's request for information with a redacted report saying:
      It's located right [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX].
      Good luck [XXXXXXXXXXXX] your [XXXXXXXXXXXX].

      NSA

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:40PM (#45603945)

      Apparently the container was opened, but it appears (at least most of) the Cobalt-60 is still intact.

      Haha! Nothing beats a good radioactive half-life/decay joke!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:41PM (#45603951)

      The reason why they don't include a tracking device with such shipments is because they are worried about the health effects of exposure to cell phone radiation.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Glad they found the truck before a dupe was posted ;-)

    • by icebike (68054)

      ALREADY BEEN RECOVERED.... (and had been for hours prior to this story being posted).

      http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/04/world/americas/mexico-radioactive-theft/ [cnn.com]

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by AndrewBuck (1120597)

        So a truck is stolen and then quickly recovered but due to the delay of getting upvoted enough to post to the front page of slashdot the 'stolen' story doesn't get posted until the 'recovered' story is already out. No problem though since the very first comment posted in this thread is one pointing this out to anyone reading the article who may not already know this.

        This aparently wasn't good enough for you though, so you decided to respond to the comment pointing out the truck is already reovered with _ye

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Apparently the container was opened,

      And tonight there is a new Mexican superhero...

      El Gran Hombre!

      His powers stem from the fact that the radiation from the cobalt 60 made his balls grow to the size of cantaloupes, giving him the strength of 100 men (and that special something women love).

      I'm working on the telenovela right now. I'm trying to decide if I should give El Gran Hombre a luchador mask. Part of me thinks it might be too cliche, but luchador masks are just so bad-ass, you know?

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      tracking device? this was in Mexico. ever been there? lots of places in Mexico aren't exactly high-tech.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        As if they should talk, the US can't even send their own tracking devices into mexico with working batteries.

    • in Mexico? Even if they have cell coverage how good is it as weak ones can drain batteries fast.

    • Re:Already found (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:57PM (#45604459) Homepage Journal

      And a fine example of yellow journalism, at that. I read an earlier, more balanced new source that said the truck was a nice cargo truck, one with a crane, and it was stolen at a truck stop. Everybody thinks they wanted the truck and had no idea what it was carrying. The hysterics about terrorism in the summary are unfounded.

      And I won't admit any relation to my cunning plan to manufacture refrigerators that open a Cobalt 60 door when the light goes out to keep food from ever going bad!

      • by aepervius (535155) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @03:53AM (#45605635)
        Journalist keep touting the dirty bomb concept, but even with a big blast you would not propel enough Co 60 to kill people in a wide radius. There are study on this go look it up. The only reason such a bomb would be effective would be as a *psychological* tool. Since journalist and movie media keep touting the dirty bomb danger, it becomes one in the mind of people, and they would really panick if one was really set off. The reality is that it would be nasty to clean up, but even if not cleaned up it would not be that bad.

        Since a dirty bomb is unlikely to cause many deaths by radiation exposure, many do not consider this to be a weapon of mass destruction.[5] Its purpose would presumably be to create psychological, not physical, harm through ignorance , mass panic, and terror.

        If a dirty radiological bomb is set off and panick subsequentely kill people, you can point the finger at journalist and media not doing their proper job to inform people about the real risk.

        • by cdrudge (68377)

          Journalist keep touting the dirty bomb concept, but even with a big blast you would not propel enough Co 60 to kill people in a wide radius.

          It wouldn't require a big blast. In Thailand in 2000 [wikipedia.org], a similar source of Cobalt-60 that was removed from it's protective container by scrappers resulting in 1900 people being significantly exposed, 10 requiring hospitalization, and 3 deaths. And that was just from a canister sitting there. Take that same amount, but atomize it in an explosion in a populated area and

        • by JavaLord (680960)
          Journalist keep touting the dirty bomb concept, but even with a big blast you would not propel enough Co 60 to kill people in a wide radius. There are study on this go look it up. The only reason such a bomb would be effective would be as a *psychological* tool. Since journalist and movie media keep touting the dirty bomb danger, it becomes one in the mind of people, and they would really panick if one was really set off.

          I find that some people don't even understand the difference between a 'dirty' bomb
      • by Solandri (704621)

        And a fine example of yellow journalism, at that. I read an earlier, more balanced new source that said the truck was a nice cargo truck, one with a crane, and it was stolen at a truck stop. Everybody thinks they wanted the truck and had no idea what it was carrying. The hysterics about terrorism in the summary are unfounded.

        While the terrorism danger is overstated, the danger of the material in the hands of the unsuspecting or ignorant is pretty much the same. Someone already posted a link to the Goi

        • by rikkards (98006)

          The DOE did a study on the effects of a dirty bomb and basically came to the conclusion that the worst would be the initial blast (non-radioactive) and the panic that would ensue.
          The rest would just be expensive due to cleanup. Most people's concern is not in how many tax dollars it costs after the fact but more of whether or not they are going to grow a third eye.
          But yet the media makes it sound like the dirty bomb is worse i.e the area would need to be razed to the ground and uninhabitable and everyone wi

      • Did you read the article? The bit quoted in the summary (on slashdot) was the first mention of terrorism, and, again, pointed out there was no reason to suspect it. It was halfway through the BBC article. If there's yellow journalism here, it's very watered down, and it's entirely on the AC who submitted this to slashdot. What "more balanced new source" are you talking about? Tell me you're talking about more balanced than slashdot and not BBC.
      • by Rhacman (1528815)
        Irradiated food doesn't spoil but it can still go bad, usually around the time it starts making anti-Semitic slurs.
    • by msauve (701917)
      It was submitted by "anonymous reader."

      Protip: ignore anything on /. from anyone with "anonymous" in their name.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are you sure they didn't have a tracking device? Maybe the Mexican authorities don't want people to know about such devices on these types of shipments, if they dd say something thieves would try to disable it, or plan out there escape with the shipments. Then again saying something may deter thieves from taking shipments, I didn't read the story but I am also going to guess the Drug Cartels (or, a drug cartel) was involved.

    • This has been in all of my RSS feeds all day. Some of those feeds claim that an empty truck was recovered. I'll wait a little while before I decide that all the cobalt was recovered.

    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      Apparently the container was opened,

      Did they find any truck thieves that died of acute radiation poisoning nearby?

      • by h5inz (1284916)

        Reminds me of the Goiânia accident [wikipedia.org]. A modern horror story.

        - "His six-year-old daughter, Leide das Neves Ferreira, later ate a sandwich while sitting on the floor. She was also fascinated by the blue glow of the powder, and applying it to her body, showed it off to her mother. Dust from the powder fell on the sandwich she was consuming"

        • by Ihlosi (895663)
          A modern horror story.

          There are a couple of stories like that. The descriptions (complete with fairly disturbing pictures) can be downloaded from the IAEA; look for "radiological accident" or "radiological incident". For example, there's a certain model of industrial sterilizer that killed several people ... the boxes containing the items to be sterilized tended to get stuck and the operators (who were never instructed on radiation safety) entered the irradiation chamber with the radiation source being

          • by gewalker (57809)

            I read somewhere that the total load was about 40 grams of cobalt-60 -- Assuming I did the math correctly, this would result in a 5 Sv dose at a distance of 1 meter from the sample in about 30 seconds. So, about 30 seconds of exposure would be likely to kill you. Of course, since radioactivity is proportional to the inverse square of the distance poking your eyeballs up close to get a get look gives a fatal dose much more quickly.

    • why don't they include a tracking device?

      The cargo is the tracking device.

      But it only works at night when you can see the glow.

    • I thought it was an advertising stunt by Taco Bell :)
    • I feel bad for the thieves actually; this almost like the start of a scifi movie. The thieves apparently just wanted to steal the truck, not realizing what the cargo was. When they looked through the cargo, they probably didn't know what it was, so they just popped open the containment unit, apparently took the Cobalt-60 out by hand, and dumped it in a field. Those poor sods might have picked up a lethal dose of radiation; the news was saying direct exposure could lead to death in just one to three days.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Kind of embarrassing for Slashdot to post this now, considering the truck has already been found. Apparently the container was opened, but it appears (at least most of) the Cobalt-60 is still intact.

      That's your fault, dude. It's been in the firehose since Wednesday, why haven't you voted for or against it? FWIW I voted it up very early yesterday morning, where have you been?

      Considering the infrastructure and expense required to ship something like this (special shielded containers, etc), why don't they incl

  • Probably stolen by people who didn't know what it contained.

    You're too late.
    Next story.

    • That was my thought. I wonder if the perps heard some of the reports of what they'd taken, realized what they had and abandoned it.
      • I didn't see pictures, but if the truck had any medical supplies markings, they may have just hoped to find prescription drugs.

  • Just wow. The mainstream news articles confirming that the radioactive material was located were posted more than a half hour ago.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:25PM (#45603865)

    1984, Ciudad Juarez: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/nuclear/radevents/1983MEX1.html [johnstonsarchive.net]

  • You're telling me that the contents of a medical supply truck could be dangerous?!

    Oh wait, you're telling me they're VERY dangerous? As in, more lethal than lethal? More poisonous than poison? More toxic than ... er ... part of a bomb?

    Sorry. The hijack and theft of a supply truck, in an area of the world known for theft and hijacking isn't news. Sure, it's dangerous and bad. But ... news? Not really. Someone might look in the fridge and say "Hey, I've got the ingredients for Nachos, lets have Nachos". B
    • by khallow (566160)

      You're telling me that the contents of a medical supply truck could be dangerous?!

      Sure. For example, they could cause a larger loss of life than a few recent nuclear reactor meltdowns. They probably wouldn't result in the long term loss of real estate though unless someone deliberately spread the isotope via a well-designed dirty bomb.

      • Could you make a 'stealth bomb' instead? Rather than spread by explosive, pose as someone spraying for insects or mix it in with paint. Spray the offices of a target organisation. People don't walk around with giger counters - it could be months before someone realises this new cluster of strange illness is focused on a single workplace, and months more before anyone thinks to try the long-shot theory of radiation poisoning. By which time some of the employees are seriously ill, all of them have an elevated

        • by khallow (566160)
          Sounds far more effective to me. Radiological bombs are overrated IMHO as a terror weapon.
        • by oobayly (1056050)

          This is why international terrorism (tm) will lose (if our respective governments wouldn't keep bigging them up) - they just don't have the imagination, intelligence and wherewithal to do things like that.

    • A dirty bomb isn't a crime of opportunity, any more than another type of bomb. Let's not pretend otherwise.

      Maybe not, but when the theft was discovered, nobody had any way of knowing if the thieves knew what they were taking. I think that the authorities were afraid that it was stolen specifically for the cobalt, and if so, if somebody was planning to build a dirty bomb for some insane reason.
  • by volvox_voxel (2752469) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:06PM (#45604111)
    I knew a post-doc that worked with the stuff at the University of Chicago. One thing they tested with it was to see how long a rat would live being exposed to it. They had some kind of lead door between the rat and the source..I don't remember the specific number, but it wasn't all that long-- probably renal failure due to their kidneys not being able to handle such a massive amount of cell death... The exposure rate constant of Cobalt-60 is 1,350mR-m^2 / hr-Ci, and has a half life of 5.27 years. I wonder if the guys that opened it up are experiencing radiation sickness?
  • Goiânia Accident (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guillermito (187510) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:18PM (#45604193) Homepage

    Glad it was already found.

    To understand the risks that this type of events involve check what happened in Brazil several years ago when radioactive medical material went missing and ended up killing several people

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident [wikipedia.org]

    • The Mexican government and several other sources have already said that they'll know who opened the container with the Co-60 soon enough. Unless they had significant amounts of shielding they could have received a lethal dose in a few minutes. They said that just 5 minutes worth of exposure will kill the individual in about 3 days.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I recalled this incident when I heard that story today. Some brain dead hospital admins left a machine with Caesium 137 in the hospital after it had been closed and abandoned. It was stolen and eventually ended up in the hands of people who had no idea what it was.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident [wikipedia.org]

    The most chilling part is the little kid who painted designs on her chest with it.

    (!!!!)

    • by khallow (566160)

      Some brain dead hospital admins left a machine with Caesium 137 in the hospital after it had been closed and abandoned.

      Glancing at the Wikipedia article, the device then became part of a lawsuit and the hospital couldn't remove the device after that from the property due to a court order. Apparently, the court did decide it was a danger and appointed guards to patrol the hospital. One of the guards didn't show (claims he was sick). The device was stolen during that time.

  • They found it with a detector and they say that people who manipulated the box will die because of the exposure. Nobody else is in risk.
    • Grand theft auto can carry a death sentence I guess.
      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        Grand theft auto can carry a death sentence I guess.

        It's not stealing the car that will kill you, it's curiosity and greed coupled with ignorance of the radiation hazard sign.

        "Oh, what's in this box? It's all locked up and covered in pretty symbols, so it must be something good." ...

  • "The container holding cobalt was found about a kilometer away from the truck and had been opened, he said." ..."At around 1 a.m. Monday, a man armed with a handgun knocked on the passenger window. When the passenger rolled down his window, the gunman demanded the keys to the vehicle, Morales said. Both the driver and his assistant were taken to an empty lot where they were bound and told not to move. They heard one of the assailants use a walkie-talkie type device or phone to tell someone, "It's done," Mor
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