A Truck Carrying Dangerous Radioactive Material Was Stolen in Mexico

A Truck Carrying Dangerous Radioactive Material Was Stolen in Mexico

The news: The International Atomic Energy Agency announced that on Monday, December 2, a truck carrying potentially dangerous radioactive material was stolen in a town outside of Mexico City.

The United Nation’s nuclear agency issued the report on Wednesday stating that thieves had seized a truck transporting radioactive waste from a hospital to a storage center. 

Why this matters: The material, cobalt-60, is used in radiotherapy for cancer treatment (hence the departure from the hospital). But it can also be used to make a “dirty bomb” – a traditional explosive laced with radiation. While far less dangerous than an actual nuclear bomb, it’s never a good thing to have any sort of radioactive explosion.

Even still, the material itself could pose a threat if removed from its container. “The source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged,” the IAEA said. At the time, the radioactive material was properly stored and shielded. But it is unclear whether thieves were aware of what they stole, or their plans for it. 

Mexico’s crime problem: Mexico has had something of a crime epidemic recently. Since 2006, approximately 70,000 people have been killed as part of the government’s attempted crackdown against drug-cartels. Last year alone there were more than 100,000 kidnappings in the country, but only a fraction of those (1,317) were actually reported to police.

So while United States forces begin to remove themselves from the drug war in Colombia, it could be time to address the drug war in our neighbor to the south. Indeed, officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are assisting Mexican officials with the truck-theft investigation. Something like this certainly warrants international attention.