MEXICO — A pair of thieves in Mexico may have stolen more than they bargained for when they targeted a truck this week.
The stolen vehicle was carrying delicate cargo — a radioactive element used for medical purposes that also can be used to make a so-called dirty bomb.
Mexican authorities said they found the stolen truck and recovered likely all of the radioactive cobalt Wednesday in a remote area about 40 km (25 miles) away from where it was taken.
The suspected thieves are still on the loose, though authorities expect they could turn up at a clinic suffering symptoms of radiation exposure.
The container holding cobalt was found about a kilometer away from the truck and had been opened, said Juan Eibenschutz Hartman, head of Mexico’s National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards.
There was less than 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of the hazardous material inside.
Authorities are guarding the area and have set up a 500-meter perimeter around it, Eibenschutz said. They are evaluating whether any residents were exposed.
Cleaning up the area could take weeks, he said, because they don’t have robotic equipment they would need to quickly collect the dangerous cobalt. They’re coming up with a plan and considering asking for help from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United States or Canada.
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