Just Robbed A Vehicle In Mexico? You Might Have A Radiation Problem

Illustration for article titled Just Robbed A Vehicle In Mexico? You Might Have A Radiation Problem

There’s a bizarre crime wave afoot in Mexico, in which thieves are targeting trucks transporting radioactive materials. But before you suspect terrorists, know this: in all of the recent cases (three in the past 18 months, including one this week), the robbers had no idea what they were stealing.

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Authorities believe that on each occasion, the thieves were simply after whatever they could grab; the pattern thus far has been that once they realize what they’ve got, they swiftly ditch the (extremely dangerous) goods, according to Alejandro Cortes Carmona, the deputy director of Mexico’s nuclear safety commission. After the most recent incident, Cortes told the Washington Post, “Fortunately, we’ve not had any deaths.”

There’s an implied “yet” appending that statement, though, based on this further information from the Post story. On Monday, a group of ne’er-do-wells happened to zero in on a truck parked in a big box store parking lot ... without taking note of its hazmat warnings.

An alert has gone out to five Mexican states after a container of Iridium 192 used in industrial x-rays was stolen from a truck in the southeastern state of Tabasco. If removed from its container, the material could cause burns or other injuries and “is very dangerous to people,” Mexico’s civil protection agency said in a statement. Extended exposure for hours or days could be fatal.

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A December 2013 incident involving a truck carrying a load of Cobalt-60 from a hospital to a waste facility was the most serious among this recent rash of crimes, according to the Post:

The robbery caused a brief dirty-bomb scare, but the thieves soon ditched the Volkswagen cargo truck. Six people were arrested, but worries they might die from exposure proved unfounded.

Mexican officials say they now plan to revise their regulations on the transport of radioactive materials to try to prevent future thefts, Cortes said.

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DISCUSSION

lukecbrennan
flamingprius

Iridium, with a price per ounce that typically hovers about 5 times that of platinum, is one of the most valuable metals in the world. If it was stored in such a way as to limit rad exposure, as it almost certainly was for transport, that haul would be quite valuable. I very much doubt the perpetrators failed to comprehend the value of the purloined container.