Mexico authorities have issued an alert after a device containing radioactive material was stolen, along with the pickup truck transporting the device. Mexico police don’t know if the device used for radiography was the target of the thieves or if they were just after the truck and the radioactive material just came along for the ride.
The alert went out to most of central Mexico after the Saturday morning theft was relayed to Mexico’s National Commission of Nuclear Security on Sunday, reports CNN News on February 29. This stolen device contains a canister of radioactive material called Iridium-192 and it can be deadly if removed from its protective covering.
The stolen Chevy Silverado truck is the target of this alert, which went out to the Federal Highway Police along with alerting authorities in six Mexican states, reports ABC News. The device itself is a pretty handy tool as it can detect pipelines for structural problems without digging. It emits gamma radiation in a beam and can find such problems as weakening welds.
The radioactive material is in a canister, described by ABC News as “a hand-held metal cylinder with a yellow protective cover.” It is not dangerous unless the protective cover is removed.
At close range gamma rays emitted by the isotope can deliver fatal doses of radiation. Earlier this year when another similar device went missing in Iraq concerns focused on the device finding its way into the wrong hands, like terrorists.
CNN reports that in the wrong hands the radiation in the device can be used to contaminate supplies of drinking water or used along with other products to “make a dirty bomb.” In Iraq, after the news of the device hit the headlines, it was found undamaged near a local police station. Hopefully Mexican authorities luck out the same way the authorities did in Iraq.