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Mexico truck carrying radioactive medical waste stolen during transport near capital

A decommissioned and safely encased cobalt-60 medical teletherapy unit is seen being lowered into a wooden box for transport to radioactive waste facility in Mexico. CNSNS/Handout

Mexico's nuclear safety agency has appealed to the public for help locating a truck stolen near the capital while transporting potentially dangerous radioactive medical waste.

The cobalt-60 teletherapy equipment was "properly shielded" when stolen, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Austria, but "could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged."

In a statement released Tuesday, the Mexican government body responsible for securing nuclear materials said the truck carrying the material in a wooden box was stolen at a gas station in the town of Tepojaco, just north of Mexico City, on Monday.

The cobalt-60 equipment had been in use at a medical facility in another part of Mexico but was decommissioned and was stolen en route to a radioactive waste facility.

A box containing a decommissioned and safely encased cobalt-60 medical teletherapy unit is seen prior to it being loaded onto a truck for transport to a radioactive waste facility in Mexico.
A box containing a decommissioned and safely encased cobalt-60 medical teletherapy unit is seen prior to it being loaded onto a truck for transport to a radioactive waste facility in Mexico.
CNSNS/Handout
The CNSNS, Mexico's nuclear safety regulator, warned anyone who might find the material not to "open nor damage" the case containing the machinery, or they could risk "severe health effects."

Mexican police were searching for the stolen Volkswagen truck in Mexico city and the surrounding districts.

The IAEA offered its assistance to Mexico in the recovery effort, and said it was maintaining contact with the relevant national authorities to see the incident through.

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