Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

December 6, 2013

Mexico plans how to safely box up recovered cobalt

MEXICO CITY — Officials were engaged Thursday in the delicate task of recovering a stolen shipment of highly radioactive cobalt-60 abandoned in a rural field in central Mexico state.

The material, which the International Atomic Energy Agency called “extremely dangerous,” was found removed from its protective container. The pellets did not appear to have been damaged or broken up and there was no sign of contamination to the area, the agency said Thursday, quoting Mexican nuclear safety officials.

Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards, said it could take at least two days to safely get the material into a secure container and transport it to a waste site.

“It’s a very delicate operation,” Eibenschutz said. “What’s important is that the material has been located and the place is being watched to guarantee no one gets close.”

The missing shipment of radioactive cobalt-60 was found Wednesday near where the stolen truck transporting the material was abandoned in central Mexico. The atomic energy agency said it has an activity of 3,000 curries, or Category 1, meaning “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.”

Hospitals were on alert for people with radiation exposure, though none had been reported so far. Mardonio Jimenez, a physicist for Mexico’s nuclear safety commission, said those who exposed themselves to the pellets could not contaminate others.

A family that found the empty container that had been used for the radioactive material was under medical observation, he told Milenio television. Hueypoxtla Mayor Javier Santillan later told the TV station that the family suffered no harm.

The cobalt-60 that was missing for nearly two days was left in a rural area about a kilometer (about a half-mile) from Hueypoxtla, a farm town of about 4,000 people. Officials said it posed no threat to the residents and there was no evacuation. Federal police and military units on the scene threw up an armed cordon about 500 meters (yards) around the site.

Alerts had been issued in six Mexican states and the capital when the cargo went missing, and also with customs officials to keep the truck from crossing the border, Eibenschutz said.

White House said Thursday the Obama administration has no reason to believe that the stolen shipment posed a threat to the United States. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed about the status of the shipment Wednesday.

But townspeople complained they hadn’t been given any information about what had been found in the nearby field.

“We just want to know,” Maria del Socorro Rostro Salazar, a lawyer who has lived in the town eight years. “There’s a kindergarten about 50 meters (yards) away (from the cordoned area) and they were operating normally yesterday. No one told them the container was nearby.”

The cargo truck hauling the cobalt-60 was stolen from a gas station early Monday in the neighboring state of Hidalgo, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from where the material was recovered, Jimenez said.

The material had been removed from obsolete radiation therapy equipment at a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana and was being transported to nuclear waste facility in the state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City.

Eibenschutz said there was nothing to indicate the thieves were after the cobalt or in any way intended for an act of terrorism, The thieves most likely wanted the white 2007 Volkswagen cargo vehicle with a moveable platform and crane , he said.

According to authorities, a truck marked “Transportes Ortiz” left Tijuana on Nov. 28 and was headed to the storage facility when the driver stopped to rest at a gas station in Tepojaco, in Hidalgo state north of Mexico City.

The driver told authorities he was sleeping in the truck when two men with a gun approached him. They made him get out, tied his hands and feet and left him in a vacant lot nearby.

Eibenschutz said the transport company did not follow proper procedures and should have had GPS and security with the truck.

“The driver also lacked common sense because he decided to park along a highway so he could sleep,” he said.

The company that owns the truck couldn’t immediately be located for comment. One Mexico City company called “Transportes Ortiz” said the truck was not theirs and they had nothing to do with the incident.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Boston Marathon Bombi_Rich copy.jpg Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP120401029 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 15, the 105th day of 2014. There are 260 days left in the year.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Space Station_Rich copy.jpg NASA OKs space station visit despite dead computer

    NASA is pressing ahead with Monday’s planned launch of a supply ship despite a critical computer outage at the International Space Station, promising the situation is safe.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fatal Shooting Kansas_Rich copy.jpg 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seven Dead Babies Arr_Rich(1) copy.jpg Utah woman arrested after 7 dead babies found

    A Utah woman accused of killing several babies she gave birth to over 10 years was arrested Sunday after police discovered seven tiny bodies stuffed in separate cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home.
    Megan Huntsman, 39, who lived in the Pleasant Grove home until three years ago, had the infants between 1996 and 2006, investigators said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP110714053482 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, April 14, 2014

    Today is Monday, April 14, the 104th day of 2014. There are 261 days left in the year. The Jewish holiday Passover begins at sunset.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Range Showdow_Rich copy.jpg Feds release cows gathered in Nevada roundup

    Federal land managers confirmed Saturday that they released all 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Ukraine_Rich copy.jpg Uniformed men occupy Donetsk police HQ

    Men in the uniforms of Ukraine’s now-defunct riot police on Saturday occupied police headquarters in Donetsk, the eastern city that is one of the flashpoints of a wave of pro-Russia protests, hours after armed men seized local police headquarters and a local branch of the Security Service in a nearby city.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Australia Malaysia Pl_Rich copy.jpg Long hunt for missing jet looms as pings go silent

    After a week of optimism over four underwater signals believed to be coming from the missing Malaysian plane, the sea has gone quiet and Australia’s leader is warning that the massive search will likely be long.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP82016106626 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Today is Palm Sunday, April 13, the 103rd day of 2014. There are 262 days left in the year.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results