Dangerous Nuclear Substance Stolen in Mexico, Several States on Alert
Mexico’s Interior Ministry put nine states on alert Monday when it was discovered that an unknown amount of iridium, a dangerous nuclear substance that’s used inside medical equipment, had been stolen in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state.
Reportedly taken from the back of a white Nissan pickup truck on Sunday, the material was inside of industrial X-ray equipment, and the ministry released a statement saying, “This was industrial equipment that included Iridium-192… which can be dangerous for people if it is taken out of its container.”
“This source could cause permanent injuries to the person who handles it or who has been in contact with it for a brief time (minutes or hours) … Being close to this quantity of unprotected radioactive material for hours or days could be fatal,” the statement added, according to the Telegraph.
A warning was issued for the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Michoacán, San Luis Potosi, and Colima. The theft was reported by Tecnología No Destructiva, SA de CV, the company that handles the equipment.
Nuclear material theft has occurred at least seven times in Mexico since 2013. A truck full of highly radioactive cobalt-60 was stolen in December 2013 by thieves who weren’t aware of the vehicle’s contents.
After the substance was found several suspects were arrested and hospitalized.
National Nuclear Safety and Safeguards Commission Director Juan Eibenschutz told the Milenio television network at the time that it was “absolutely certain that whoever removed this material by hand is either already dead or about to die … It would probably be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period in the range of a few minutes to an hour,” according to RT.
Authorities are telling people to contact local law enforcement if they locate the material, and to stay at least 30 yards away from the substance. Exposure to iridium can can be injurious, but if the left in the container it poses no danger.
Luis Felipe Puente, National Coordinator of the Interior Ministry, tweeted that if people encounter the container, “don’t open it.”