BREAKING: Industrial Radioactive Material has been stolen in Mexico’s eastern coastal state of Tabasco

MEXICO CITY, April 16 (Reuters) – Radioactive industrial x-ray material has been stolen in Mexico’s eastern coastal state of Tabasco, Mexican authorities said, the latest in a string of such thefts.

The material, Iridium-192 was reported stolen on Monday from a pickup truck in Cardenas, Tabasco, authorities said in a statement late on Wednesday. Used for mobile industrial x-rays, the substance would be dangerous if removed from its container, authorities said.

A load of the same material was stolen in a pickup truck in an industrial Mexico City suburb last July.

Thieves in December 2013 also made off with a truck containing Cobalt-60, a radioactive medical material that the United Nations’ nuclear agency said could provide an ingredient for a “dirty bomb”. That radioactive load was also found dumped by the thieves close to where it was stolen. (Reporting by Anahi Rama and Alexandra Alper Editing by W Simon)
Age: Half-life of 73.83 days

Appearance: Platinum-coloured, but with a slight yellowish cast.

What is it? A radioactive isotope of the element iridium, which emits beta and gamma radiation as it decays.

Is it in the ground? Unlike more stable isotopes iridium-191 and 193, iridium does not occur in nature.

So where would I find something like that? In the back of a van in Bacup.

Are you sure? Yes. In fact, a small amount of iridium-192, enclosed in a lead-lined yellow canister, was stolen from a van parked in Bacup just last weekend. (feb of 2013)

I’m confused. Because you don’t understand how highly radioactive material can be transported so insecurely in this day and age?

No, because I don’t know where Bacup is. It’s in Lancashire.

Ah. Finally all the pieces are beginning to fall into place. But who would want this stuff? That’s unclear. Iridium-192 has industrial applications, and it’s also used in medicine as a source of radiation to kill cancer cells. But it’s also … now don’t panic, will you?

Of course I won’t. It’s also one of the main lost or stolen commercial radioactive isotopes that could potentially be used in a dirty bomb.

Oh my God! What’s a dirty bomb? A non-nuclear device using conventional explosives to spread radioactive material over a wide area.

Don't panic … iridium 192 loses its radioactivity relatively quickly.
 Don’t panic … iridium 192 loses its radioactivity relatively quickly. Photograph: Martin Diebel/Getty Images/f


We’re all going to die! Calm down. There is a lot of unaccounted-for iridium-192 in the world – in the US particularly – but this a relatively small amount, and it is probable the thief or thieves don’t even know what they have.

Is it dangerous? It should be safe as long as it remains in its lead-shielded casing. In the meantime, police are appealing to the public to keep an eye out for the missing canister.

Do say: “Don’t worry. Unlike some radioactive isotopes, iridium-192 loses its potency quite quickly. No respectable dirty-bomb maker would touch it.”

Don’t say: “Bacup? Just take the A681 east through Rawtenstall, and turn left when you see the bright-green glow.”


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