Print 57 comment(s) - last by room200.. on Dec 8 at 2:54 PM

The truck has been found by authorities

A couple of carjackers from Mexico are almost certain to win a Darwin Award for their latest (and final) crime.
A white Volkswagen truck was transporting a highly radioactive material -- cobalt-60 -- from a public hospital in the border town of Tijuana to a storage facility in central Mexico. A man and his assistant, both of whom worked for a licensed private company, drove the truck. 
The drivers arrived at their destination hours before the storage facility opened, so they waited at a gas station in the state of Hidalgo. However, two carjackers beat the drivers and stole their truck, completely oblivious to what was in the back of the vehicle. 
Mexican authorities immediately started looking across six states for the stolen vehicle while Mexico's nuclear safety group (known as CNSNS) issued a public alert. If the cobalt-60 was removed from its casing, which consisted of a wooden box that has steel edging, it could be very dangerous.
After a two-day hunt, the truck was found in a rural area near the town of Hueypoxtla, which is about 25 miles from where the vehicle was stolen. The carjackers were not with the truck, but they did manage to open the box of cobalt-60 before they left.

While the carjackers haven't been arrested yet, Mexico's nuclear safety commission believes that they are dead, or will soon be dead due to the exposure to radiation. 

“I believe, definitely, that the thieves did not know what they had; they were interested in the crane, in the vehicle,” said Mardonio Jimenez, a physicist and official with Mexico’s nuclear safety commission. "The people who handled it will have severe problems with radiation. They will, without a doubt, die.”

It was reported that radiation was detected a half-mile away from where the truck was found. The report also noted that no one lives in that area. 

Cobalt-60 is most often used in hospital radiotherapy machines.

Source: NPR

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Odds are they are not dead
By mattclary on 12/5/2013 1:43:33 PM , Rating: 1
Unless they ingested the cobalt, they were probably not exposed enough to cause death.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By Kakti on 12/5/2013 1:52:13 PM , Rating: 3
Actually the odds are they absolutely 100% will die from radiation poisoning. The Cobalt-60 isotope has a (relatively) short half-life of roughly 5.25 years, releasing two gamma rays and a beta ray (electron) in the process.

These medical materials are generally shielded by huge lead/stainless steel containers. The wooden box was simply a shipping crate. Once the thieves removed the lead shielding they would be bombarded by gamma rays. Since they likely didn't know or immediately flee, it can be inferred that they will be expiring in short order.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By twhittet on 12/5/2013 2:33:08 PM , Rating: 5
Gamma rays? Let's just hope they don't get mad. I don't think we would like them when they're mad.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By Solandri on 12/6/2013 4:02:06 AM , Rating: 2
There have been several cobalt-60 irradiation incidents before. Death usually occurs within a month or two. The timeframe is consistent with the two plutonium irradiation deaths during the Manhattan project.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By DennisB on 12/5/2013 2:16:03 PM , Rating: 2
You know, it's used for burning out cancer. And it needs like a meter of lead for shielding. These guys are doomed the moment they looked at it.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By 91TTZ on 12/5/2013 3:03:25 PM , Rating: 2
It was inside a machine from a hospital, and those machines don't have a meter of lead.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By ShaolinSoccer on 12/5/2013 5:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
It was inside a box that they opened. Did you not read the article?! Those guys are as good as dead...

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By sorry dog on 12/6/2013 11:34:22 AM , Rating: 2
How fast they die probably all depends on how long they handled it and how much they handled it.

Like when Slotin got exposed, a heat and pin pricking sensation was described if a large amount of radiation is being absorbed, so the Darwin applicants may have had some clues that something was wrong. Barring that however, it will probably take a few weeks. It's such a drawn out hideous death that somebody will probably take then to a hospital. Whether the Mexican gov't lets us know about it is another matter.

I imagine they would want to suppress the news from this event...

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By Piiman on 12/7/2013 1:36:21 PM , Rating: 2
Why would they want to suppress news that's already made the news?

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By ianweck on 12/5/2013 6:29:34 PM , Rating: 2
The tenth thickness for gammas is 2" of lead, 4" of steel if I recall correctly. Probably wouldn't need a meter of lead for adequate shielding.

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By V-Money on 12/5/2013 9:02:15 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct, 2" for lead, 4" for steel, and 24" for water or poly. Alphas are stopped by your skin and betas can be stopped by a piece of paper. In the end it has to do with the source radiation and time/distance/shielding. Without knowing how radioactive the source was we cant really make any determinations unless they managed to ingest some of it for some stupid reason (or make a necklace out of it).

RE: Odds are they are not dead
By DennisB on 12/6/2013 2:44:17 PM , Rating: 2
Shielding before replacement has to be at least
this gives 15 cm lead or 37.5 cm steel or 270 cm water.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki