The vehicle was transporting a “teletherapy source” containing cobalt-60 from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage centre when it was stolen in Tepojaco near Mexico City on Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
“At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded. However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged,” an IAEA statement said.
The IAEA said it was informed about the theft by Mexico’s National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards (CNSNS), which said the radioactive material posed no risk provided the container was not broken or tampered with. It said the truck was stolen at a service station.
A search was underway in six Mexican states and in Mexico City for the white Volkswagen Worker truck, the CNSNS said in a statement. It gave phone numbers for anyone with information to call and released photos of the steel-reinforced wooden crate carrying the material.
Experts have long warned about the risks posed by the large amounts of radioactive material held in hospitals, university campuses and factories, often with little or no security measures to prevent them being stolen.