Mexico issues alert after theft of small amount of radioactive material


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MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities said Friday they have found a tiny amount of radioactive material that had been stolen along with the pickup truck that was carrying it.

The head of the national civil defense office, Luis Felipe Puente, wrote in his Twitter account that the pen point-sized piece of iridium had been found just north of Mexico City. He said it was under guard and being taken to a safe location.

The iridium, used in an industrial inspection device, was enclosed in a casing about the size of a pen. Puente said it was still in the casing when found.

The pickup truck carrying the iridium was stolen earlier this week and was later found at a different site.

The operations chief for the National Nuclear Security Commission, Mardonio Jimenez, said earlier the device could cause harm if opened. Jimenez said the Iridium-192 has a relatively short half-life.

It is the third theft of radioactive material in Mexico since December. The December theft of cobalt-60 used in radiation therapy was considered more serious, but the material was later found.

Jimenez said there was no indication thieves in any of the cases had specifically targeted the radioactive substances. It appears thieves wanted the vehicles that were transporting them.

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