Mexico reports the truck which raised the question of dirty bombs was found just a short time ago. It was a theft which has caught international attention quickly because of the nature of the cargo and the danger of dirty bombs potentially being made from the stolen materials. The radioactive medical equipment was taken at gunpoint out of a truck that was carrying it away to be destroyed. While the truck drivers were stopped to rest, the gunmen accosted them and made them get out of the truck. They got away with the truck and the highly dangerous radioactive cargo, leaving the question of a possible dirty bomb unresolved.
The material that was on the truck that is considered so dangerous is called cobalt-60, and it is used as part of medical diagnostic equipment. In Mexico, it was being used to treat cancer patients. The equipment that was stolen was older, and scheduled to be safely disposed of. The cobalt-60 is highly radioactive, and experts have expressed concerns that a dirty bomb made out of that particular material would have the potential for a significant amount of damage, both up-front after detonation and lingering from the radiation.
It seems clear now that the theft most likely had more to do with the truck itself, which had a valuable crane and lifting equipment on the back. The stolen radioactive material appears to have been incidental. Despite that fact, concerns about how easy it was to come into possession of such a potentially dangerous material are being raised internationally. Statements from the United Nations seem to indicate that this was not an isolated event, which only strengthen those concerns if future thefts go unresolved. Even though the authorities in Mexico are reporting that the truck which raised the question of these potential dirty bombs has been found, tensions are still running high.
The Mexican government says that the area they found the stolen truck in is sufficiently remote that there is no danger to the surrounding community and no need for any evacuations. Information is scarce, however, and many questions still remain about the threat to public safety, as well as the details about the re-capture of the truck and the radioactive materials. Although authorities are trying to downplay the incident, the flags have already been thrown up, and this event will likely spark debate and inquiries for some time to come.
With advances in medical technology, particularly for the treatment of cancer, medical equipment similar to the equipment stolen today is becoming more and more common. The manufacturers of the equipment, as well as the regulatory governmental agencies, are aware of the concerns and have put safeguards in place to prevent just this type of theft. Those safeguards, however, and those responsible for their enforcement, have not been under the type of scrutiny that will be brought to bear after today’s events. The eyes of the world have been focused on the issue now. With the reports being issued that the stolen truck was found, governmental agencies in Mexico might hope that the question of the possibility of dirty bombs is over, but it is most likely just the beginning if other thefts go unresolved.
By Jim Malone