Mexico Says Stolen Radioactive Source Found in Field

The international radiation symbol, or trefoil, indicates hazardous radioactive material. (Graphic: IAEA)

Mexico has informed the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that it has located a dangerous radioactive source that had been missing since the truck on which it was being transported was stolen on 2 December 2013.

Mexico's "Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardias (CNSNS)" said law enforcement authorities tracked the teletherapy device down to a field near the town of Hueypoxtla in Mexico State, very close to where the truck was stolen, at around 14:00 (20:00 UTC) on 4 December 2013.

The radioactive cobalt-60 source contained in the device has been removed from its protective shielding, but there is no indication that it has been damaged or broken up and no sign of contamination to the area. Police have secured the area around the source to a distance of 500 metres.

The source, with an activity of 3 000 curies (111 terabequerels), is considered Category 1. The IAEA defines a Category 1 source as extremely dangerous to the person. If not safely managed or securely protected, it would be likely to cause permanent injury to a person who handled it or who was otherwise in contact with it for more than a few minutes. 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.

Mexican authorities are assessing potential radiation exposure to persons who may have been close to the unshielded source, and hospitals have been alerted to watch for symptoms of such exposure.

People exposed to the source do not represent a contamination risk to others. Based on the information available, the Mexican authorities and the IAEA believe the general public is safe and will remain safe.

The CNSNS and the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Nucleares (ININ) are preparing plans to recover and secure the source.

The IAEA remains in close contact with the Mexican authorities. It believes the actions taken in response to the discovery of the source are appropriate and follow Agency guidance for this type of event.

Last update: 17 November 2014