Photo: Nuclear heist in Mexico
Six suspects in the theft of nuclear material in central Mexico have been released from the hospital after tests indicated they had not suffered radiation poisoning, authorities said.
The individuals were arrested Thursday and taken to the Pachuca General Hospital for tests to determine the extent of their exposure to cobalt-60, radioactive material that was among the medical equipment on board a truck they stole on Monday.
The results of the blood and neurological tests they underwent “were normal,” the deputy health secretary of Hidalgo state, Jose Antonio Copca Garcia, told Radio Formula.
Afterward, they were taken to Mexico City for questioning.
They were apprehended in Pachuca, Hidalgo’s capital, in the course of the investigation into the robbery.
The truck was stolen on Monday in Tepojaco, Hidalgo, while transporting cobalt-60 from a hospital in the northwestern border city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage center.
The armed robbery occurred at a gas station when the driver and another occupant of the truck were asleep inside while waiting for the storage center to open.
Mexican authorities located the truck and the radioactive material Wednesday afternoon in a field near the town of Hueypoxtla, Mexico state, not far from where the vehicle was stolen.
While the cobalt-60 had been removed from its protective shielding, technicians from Mexico’s nuclear agency found no trace of radioactive contamination in the area.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the Category 1 cobalt-60 teletherapy source, which formerly had been used for cancer treatment, “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,” the IAEA said.