back to article Mexican Cobalt-60 robbers are DEAD MEN, say authorities

Mexican troops have recovered a stolen shipment of radioactive Cobalt-60 isotope, abandoned by truck thieves who face the risk of a slow lingering death from radiation poisoning. A truck carrying a substantial quantity of the radioactive isotope Cobalt-60 from a hospital in Tijuana to a waste centre was robbed by armed bandits …

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  1. hplasm Silver badge
    Alert

    The wages of sin, and all that-

    But still, a horrible way to go.

  2. phil dude
    Boffin

    slow death...

    When you read about the actual clinical consequence of radiation "poisoning", it is really very sad. I put poisoning in quotes since it is not a traditional chemical poison, but ionising radiation creating sufficinet double-stranded DNA breaks that outpace DNA repair metabolism.

    Not nice, and almost as sad as thieves stealing live copper cables...

    P.

    1. peter 45

      Re: slow death...

      I'm trying to be sad....but I just can't.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: slow death...

        How about considering their time line?

        This happened Wednesday 4 Dec. The authorities say that exposure to the unshielded source will provide a fatal dose if the criminals were close enough, and estimate that a period of a few minutes to an hour would be needed for this. Assuming that they got a lowish fatal dose, my look-up chart reckons that they will be vomiting by 11 Dec, losing hair by 18 Dec, and dead by 25 Dec.

        Happy Christmas....

        1. Marvin the Martian

          Re: slow death...

          Alternatively you can read it as "we cannot be arsed to look into it; it will solve itself; we live in a war zone anyhows:

      2. Squander Two

        Sad?

        Just remember what Mexico's criminal classes do to the country's murder rate. Let's not shed tears for the bastards, eh?

  3. Ol'Peculier
    Mushroom

    Wait to see how long it takes before every delivery company puts "might be carrying nuclear waste" on the back door of their vans. Good deterrent.

    1. Psyx

      Yeah, then they'll only get 'jacked by potential terrorists, rather than amateurs.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Psyx

        " Yeah, then they'll only get 'jacked by potential terrorists, rather than amateurs." LOL, can you just imagine the court scene:

        "Yes, M'Lud, the accused is the only survivor of the gang that carjacked six trucks they thought carried radioactive Cobalt-60, only to find even worse material with a hal-life of thousands of years - shipments of Twinkies! By the time authorities tracked them to their lair the other members of the gang had died from chronic obesity...."

    2. aqk
      Black Helicopters

      I'm resonably sure the truck and the container already had warnings - both large radiation symbols and text in Spanish. But dolts were probably illiterate.

  4. Vociferous

    Moral of this story: Don't handle pellets which give off a pretty blue light.

    And if you do find yourself in possession of weird pellets which give off a pretty blue light, don't eat them, like people did in 1983.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Moral of this story: Don't handle pellets which give off a pretty blue light.

      My alma mater had a small reactor which I visited once, and you could stand above it and look down through the water at the business end. Cherenkov radiation is really very, very beautiful. It's an odd diffuse light that seems to have no source, which is hard to describe. It's not like a torch in mist, there is no "beam" just a glow.

      In any event "don't eat the glowing pellets" is good advice for life, more so even than "don't eat the yellow snow".

      1. xenny

        Re: Moral of this story: Don't handle pellets which give off a pretty blue light.

        "Metric" College?

        1. Yet Another Commentard

          Re: Moral of this story: Don't handle pellets which give off a pretty blue light.

          Yep.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Moral of this story: Don't handle pellets which give off a pretty blue light.

      That'll help you if you're dealing with a hydrophilic compound of a radioactive element that has been exposed to water and is emitting Čerenkov radiation.

      Pellets of 60Co won't glow on their own.

    3. Euripides Pants Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Morel of the story

      Eat 'shrooms instead

  5. Dan Paul

    Radiation Monitoring

    This is why junkyards should be required to check radiation levels in scrap as it is received. Many US Border crossings now have radiation detector tubes on each truck and car lane since the whole 9/11 thing but there is no law requiring scrappers to check and certify each load as it comes in to a junkyard.

    The real problem is that once the radioactive material has been smelted in with the rest of the scrap, there is no way to remove the radiation except to let the half life decay process take care of the lethal dose.

    That small container of pellets is now melted into TONS of contaminated scrap. Try safely disposing of that.

    This used to happen quite often before there were Federal regulations regarding the cradle to grave disposal of radioactive sources. Small hometown Dentists, Doctors and Vets had portable XRay devices and the earliest ones used Cobalt sources instead of electric X Ray tubes. When the Doctor died, no one knew what that heavy thing in the basement was and they got scrapped.

    I sold Nuclear Level Gauges for several years (they can "see" liquid through inches of solid steel) and the gentleman that was the radiation officer for the manufacturer told me that he knew of a lost source from a gauge (encapsulated Cesium 137) that was demolished out of a chemical plant that had been used as a boat anchor because it was heavy, had an eyehook on it and was the size of a coffee can. Thankfully the shutter spring had never rotted off it. They found it when it crossed a border in a boat trailer. Had the shutter spring failed, it would have inadvertently dosed hundreds of people. Had it been scrapped and smelted it would be a "small" nuclear disaster.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesium-137 for interesting (and scary) details under incidents

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Radiation Monitoring

      Have no time to search for the article right this moment, but this is not the first time something similar happened in Mexico. Half of one of their cities is radioactive now as an X-Ray machine was accidentally dumped in a metal scrap yard. The ball bearing rolled all over and got in lots of other equipment/scrap that was recycled for construction.

      :(

      1. kevin king

        Re: Radiation Monitoring

        At Samut Prakarn, Thailand (not Mexico) a 15.7 TBq (425 Ci) cobalt-60 teletherapy source was lost, attempts were made by some scrap metal workers to recycle the metal. During this time humans were subject to irradation by the source.

        It was found that at the edge of the scrap yard the dose rate was about 1 to 10 mSv hr−1. The exact location of the source in the scrap yard was determined using a fluorescent screen which acted as a scintillator. This was held on the end of a long pole. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samut_Prakan_radiation_accident

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: Radiation Monitoring

        X-ray machines generate their radiation by accelerating an electron beam into a target. Whatever the machine was that ended up in that dump, it wasn't x-ray. More likely either a radiotherepy machine or an industrial source. They are used for quality control in metalworking.

        1. OldWarrior

          Re: Radiation Monitoring

          The story I read said a Radiotherapy Machine. Generally industrial radiation sources must be smaller in order to increase detail of the resultant radiograph. Smaller source=greater detail due to less penumbra (the blurred edge of a shadow). Sources have to be replaced after about 3-5 years as treatment times become too long as the material decays. Cobalt 60 emits Gamma only at 1.02 Million Electron Volt level. At that level there is an effect called "Pair Production", where a Gamma Ray interacts with atoms, which causes the release of 2 electrons (Beta Particles) and 2 Positrons. The Positrons immediately react with 2 electrons, annihilating all 4 but releasing 4 more Gamma rays, but at an energy level too low to cause more "Pair Production".

          There was a theft in the US in the mid-70's, where the thief put the source in his shirt pocket after taking it out of it's container. The rule of thumb is that the greatest effect of a radiation dose occurs ~7-10 days post exposure, so these victims are only now peaking.

    2. Glen Turner 666

      Re: Radiation Monitoring

      Required here in Australia. The sensors are typically mounted on the input hopper and on the forklifts. Where I live in Port Adelaide there was an incident recently where a forklift sensor alarmed and the quick thinking and selfless operator drove the forklift well away from the factory's buildings before running.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-12/radiation-bin/2836604

    3. aqk
      Mushroom

      Re: Radiation Monitoring on your feet?

      Heh! Tell me about it. When I was a kid in the early '50s, all the shoe stores (in Quebec) had devices that you could stick your feet into, to see if your delicate foot bones were not cramped in the new shoe.

      No? Then, madame, your son has a fine fit!

      We kids used to go into the local shoe store on our own, and have fun staring at the flourescence, sometimes wriggling our toes, putting a penny on top of the shoe to see how transparent it was (not very), etc..

      One day the government came around and seized all these devices, saying they were, uhh.. unsafe.

      mais pourquoi?

      C'est pas tes affaires, punk! Sors d'ici!

      Sixty years later I still look at my feet to see if they perchance glow in the dark.

      Ah well, I guess all the offending ions got pissed and shat out decades ago.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    I humbly submit this for the Darwin awards.

    On the other hand, as other have pointed out, it doesn't really seem that funny :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I humbly submit this for the Darwin awards. On the other hand, as other have pointed out, it doesn't really seem that funny :("

      To the hard hearted it is indeed funny. Fucking thieving bastards, serve 'em right. Just like the c*nts who steal live power cables.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > To the hard hearted

        You mean to the Schadenfreuder. Which is a remarkably pathetic thing to be.

        1. Wzrd1

          "You mean to the Schadenfreuder. Which is a remarkably pathetic thing to be."

          Thanks! I learned a new word today. :)

          I know know the proper term for the disgusting, pathetic excuse of a human who enjoys harm being visited upon others.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: To the hard hearted it is indeed funny.

        Not funny, just well deserved.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Alert

      Most Darwin award nominees are actually rather sad.

      1. Nigel 11

        But far more ingeneous

    3. Daniel B.
      Happy

      Darwin award

      I'd probably agree with the Darwin award as well. Unlike the 1983 incident, it seems that the only dudes who got Chunky Rad Exposure were the robbers themselves, so no innocent bystanders affected. And given the violence involved in truck-jacking (or many gunpoint crimes in Mexico), I hope they die a slow and very painful death.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Darwin award

        Mmmm, but they haven't died yet. At-risk survivor then?

        Do they have kids already? It might be an honorary mention if they do pass on early.

        1. Joe User

          Re: Darwin award

          The Darwin Award has been amended to include people who survive but render themselves incapable of breeding. This dose of radiation should qualify one way or the other.

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: Darwin award

        "I hope they die a slow and very painful death."

        I find it fascinating how *anyone* would desire anyone to suffer a tortuous death.

        However, it's quite likely that the one who handled the source is already dead. Any within two meters ill, further away would depend on how long the source and they were in any proximity.

        But, I for one am civilized and would not desire anyone to suffer for any crime, regardless of severity.

        1. Squander Two

          Re: Darwin award @Wzrd1

          > I for one am civilized and would not desire anyone to suffer for any crime, regardless of severity.

          A civilized criminal justice system should not involve slow lingering deaths. But if some criminals happen to visit such a death on themselves, I don't see the problem.

          We're willing to accept that some dangerous jobs -- on oil rigs, major construction projects, in aerospace, etc, and of course the military -- carry a risk of horrible deaths and crippling injuries and that the people who do these jobs willingly and knowingly accept those risks. We don't wish the pain on them, but we accept that it can happen and we respect their right to take the risk. And they're generally productive members of society doing important jobs that help us. I see no problem with applying basically the same reasoning to criminals, only with a bit less pity as all they're trying to do is harm innocent people for money.

  7. i like crisps
    Facepalm

    Doubt it will KILL them...

    ...but they might want to avoid having an XRAY for the next few years.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Doubt it will KILL them...

      Or children.

      1. i like crisps

        Re: Doubt it will KILL them...

        You never know, the kids might end up with superpowers a'la XMEN.....either that or no eyeballs....

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Doubt it will KILL them...

          Daleks require radiation to survive...

          1. i like crisps
            Go

            Re: Doubt it will KILL them...

            I did not know that TRT. Thank you for increasing my Knowledge base....have an upvote.....Oh yeah, best Dr Who? for me....Tom Baker.

            1. TRT Silver badge
    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Doubt it will KILL them...

      The incident in Thailand back in 2000 killed three.

  8. Alistair Silver badge
    Facepalm

    education issue.

    Every disposal container *I've* ever seen -- and I have family in the hospital biz --

    has a great huge honking label on it .

    I don't imagine that even in Mexico, in even the smallest hospital, that the radiologist packing it up wouldn't make sure that label was in place.

    Darwin award candidates - make sure they don't have children first, and I'm guessing that they are stupid enough not to KNOW they have children if they opened something with that label on it.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: education issue.

      Indeed, all radioactive stuff has explicit labels like the all-known fan-shaped one and "MATERIAL RADIOACTIVO" stamped on it. They probably didn't check the cargo until after hearing the news about what exactly they had stolen. And even then they were stupid enough to open the container … that makes them doubly stupid!

      1. i like crisps
        Go

        Re: education issue.

        or MATERIAL......SCORCHIO!!!!

      2. ridley

        Re: education issue.

        There is a related problem with the disposal of radioactive waste. Ie what warning message do you put on the site?

        After all putting a great big warning message on a highly secure box/storage facility will just make some people think "I wonder what is really in there that they are so keen to hide?"

        Shortly followed by "Ooh thats a pretty light"

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: education issue.

          Warning symbols are really weird things anyway, I collect photos of them. Some are hilarious. Some only make sense if you understand the greater context and some are so far out there as to have the completely opposite effect they were intended to have, they seem to point to something good.

          The proposed warnings for the Yucca Mountain waste repository are probably the weirdest I've ever seen. It's got pirates and aliens and all sorts of mixed messages going on and that's in context. What people will make of them in 1000+ years is anyone's guess.

        2. pepper

          Re: education issue.

          Ah yes, you are correct Ridley, put 'Do not touch', or 'No Handle' on any part of a aircraft and people are bound to use it as climbing equipment or wiggle it about a bit to see what it does!

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: education issue.

            It's the "Forbidden Fruit" effect: plain and simple. And it's this that makes keeping people out of a place virtually impossible. That's the dilemma. Try to hide it and by the law of averages, someone will stumble upon it by chance. Put a sign of any kind on it, and you polarize people: some will stay away while others will have just the opposite effect and be ATTRACTED to it. And since the effect is based on curiosity (a basic human trait), it's not something you can easily mitigate.

        3. Piro

          Re: education issue.

          ISO 21482 is designed specifically for this.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:New_radiation_symbol_ISO_21482.svg

          It's a pretty serious warning sign.

      3. dssf

        Re: education issue. C-6(0)

        Maybe they thought it was a beacon to a Resurrection Ship, to Caprica 6.... Or, they planned on making a Cylon Cylon detector. IIRC, Dr. Baltar and his amazing cylon detector used Plutonium.

        Sorry, but I have to quote Scripture, again: "All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."

    2. sam bo

      Re: education issue.

      "I'm guessing that they are stupid enough not to KNOW " ignorance is not the same as stupidity. 3rd world poverty stricken upbringing can have disastrous results - severely reduced life expectancy is common.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: education issue.

        Desperation leads men down many dangerous paths. If they weren't desperate before they stole the truck, they sure as hell were after they stole it. You can't go back at that point and their recently acquired treasure was the only hope they had of escaping the wrath of law enforcement.

        They had to inspect it once they got the chance. After all, wouldn't you label your treasure with false warnings to scare off stupid criminals...

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: education issue.

      "I don't imagine that even in Mexico, in even the smallest hospital, that the radiologist packing it up wouldn't make sure that label was in place."

      If you'd read the linked Thai accident article in the comments, you'd have noticed that noone in that incident knew what the symbol actually meant.

      A large percentage of criminals can't read and are poorly educated....

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge

        Re: education issue.

        @Alan Brown: considering how often Greenpeace and other green terrorists use the symbol to scare people, you'd guess that there are no people alive over the age of ***teen that don't know what a trefoil means.

        the stupidity of people doesn't cease to amaze

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: education issue.

          Consdering this occurred in a country where environmentalism can take a hike when people just want to eke out a living, perhaps none of the ecoterrorirsts ever stayed around long enough to make people familiar with the trefoil.

          That's the double edge of ignorance. It can either be bliss or it can be murder.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Question ?

    Anyone know where I can get a cobalt 60 mobile phone and car, so the next time some thieving bastard decides to have away with my property they get their just deserts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question ?

      To the downvoters - when you have had your house broken into, car keys stolen and then woken up to find your car missing I'll be interested to see if you still have the same opinion.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: Question ?

        Aye nothing turns a wooly thinking liberal in to a conservative reactionary faster than having his car stolen/house broken into

        1. Robert 31

          Re: Question ?

          I've been robbed and burgled. I'm still a liberal pinko hippy.

      2. Don Jefe

        Re: Question ?

        Getting robbed and/or having your things stolen does suck. It's a terrible invasion of privacy and the loss of the stuff sucks too, but wishing a horrible death on the thieves is a bit much.

        In actuality, if you value your possessions more than Human lives then it makes perfect sense people would want to steal your treasures. Who wouldn't want such incredibly valuable things for themselves and why were you leaving such priceless treasures unguarded in the first place? Surely you weren't counting on society to guard them for you, were you?

        I strongly suspect your valuation system may be a touch tweaked. Either you left incredibly valuable treasures in a vulnerable position, in which case you undervalued them, or you greatly overvalued the things that were taken. Either way I strongly recommend reassessing your valuation criteria. Something is off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question ?

          I hate people. I am happy when I hear that a stranger died.

          Human lives in general have negative value to me- there exist only a handful of exceptions.

          1. TopOnePercent Silver badge

            Re: Question ?

            "I hate people. I am happy when I hear that a stranger died.

            Human lives in general have negative value to me- there exist only a handful of exceptions."

            Seek help.

        2. James O'Shea Silver badge

          Re: Question ?

          I value my things more than I value the life of a thief. Or, alternatively, thieves value my things more than they value their lives. They could, you know, not try to steal my stuff. Perhaps they could steal _yours_.

          1. Don Jefe
            FAIL

            Re: Question ?

            My valuable things are either properly secured or easily replaced. Go ahead, steal my car, insurance will buy another.

            If you think your things are worth killing to defend then you are worth killing to get them. That's the way that works. With values like that you're running a pretty big risk anyway as you are obviously unable to protect your home or car, you certainly couldn't protect your life or your families life.

            The unfortunate part about that equation is people with attitudes like yours rarely have valuable things anyway.

            So you're left with two groups of people, one desperate thief and one incompetent property owner, with skewed ideas of value fighting to the death over some crappy car and $400 worth of Phil Collins CD's. It's pretty sad your life isn't worth more than that.

            1. James O'Shea Silver badge

              Re: Question ?

              Late one night many years ago three bright young men broke into my house. They had a hammer, a crowbar, two machetes, and a .38 special revolver. (The hammer and the crowbar were for literally pounding the door off its hinges.) The bright young man with the revolver put three rounds into my dog. SWMBO, who is a much better shot than I am, hit one of the bright young men with a machete (this was in Jamaica, lots and lots and lots of machetes easily available) with two rounds from her Browning 9. The bright young man with the revolver tried to shoot her. I shot him, three rounds, .303 SAA from my grandfather's old SMLE Mark III*. (Long story. For some reason the RN thought that at least one cruiser's crew needed rifles, and didn't take them back in 1918. We've had Grandpa's Rifle ever since.) The last bright young man dropped his machete or I'd have emptied the magazine into him. I was a tad upset. The cops came around, and an ambulance hauled two two bright young men to hospital where they unfortunately survived. At trial their lawyer tried to get me into trouble for shooting the bright lad with the revolver; apparently he'd fired all six. I hadn't been counting. The jury didn't much care for the lawyer, or the bright young man, and the judge must have been pretty annoyed, too, 'cause the bright young man got 30 years for armed robbery, life for shooting with intent, life for illegal possession of a firearm, 20 years for breaking and entering an occupied dwelling, to be served consecutively. The bright young man was most wrath with both the judge and me; that got him another ten. The lawyer vowed to appeal. During the course of the appeal, the bright young man broke jail, and several months later was shot dead resisting arrest when a joint military-police patrol (three JDF soldiers with SLRs and a Sterling plus a Eradication Squad policeman with an Uzi) caught him attempting to break into a shop and hit him six times with 7.62-mm NATO and 11 times with 9-mm. (I was notified when he broke jail because of his threat, and again when he was killed for the same reason.) Note: 1JR continues to provide the muscle for joint military-police patrols in Jamaica. See further http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131030/lead/lead4.html. Now they use M16s and Colt Commandos instead of SLRs, Sterlings, and Uzis.

              The cops never even bothered to take my weapons away once they'd verified that they were properly licensed.

              The next time someone breaks into _my_ house, he _will_ be dead. I've since become a considerably better shot, and I'd probably use the shotgun instead of the SMLE. And I'd clear the magazine into their centre of mass. Because you're right: it _is_ my life or theirs. And I'd rather it was theirs. YMMV, but I don't care about your opinion, because you simply have no bloody clue.

              1. JLV Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: Question ?

                First

                >>I value my things more than I value the life of a thief.

                Later

                >They had a hammer, a crowbar, two machetes, and a .38 special revolver. ...put three rounds into my dog... tried to shoot her...

                I have no problem whatsoever with your actions. In Jamaica, I'd buy a gun too. Or, more likely, move elsewhere.

                But you shifted the goalposts quite a bit between your 2 postings and I was commenting on your first post, not the second ;-)

              2. Scott 26
                Pint

                Re: Question ?

                You should do a reddit AMA... that's a helluva experience!

                have an upvote + vbeer ;)

          2. JLV Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Question ?

            In theory, there are lots of people whose passing I would not overly mourn. But there is a reason soldiers and police are traumatized after their first killing. Personally, I would not want to know myself as the kind of person who would prefer someone dying over getting my car stolen (which is insured anyway, but even if it was not). I would not want to deal with the emotional toll aftermath, simple as that.

            Would I have a problem killing, at the time, someone who threatened my life and limb, that of friends or family? Or say my life savings*? No, I would not. But for something of fairly limited material value?

            It's like the death penalty. Provided you could only execute the guilty, without possibility of error. Provided it actually saved money, rather than costing in appeals and supermax prisons. Say it only targeted the hard-core murderers & rapists, not people with any mitigating circumstances.

            Even then, having the death penalty on the books is an indictment of the society that puts it there. Shows we are not far evolved yet from tooth for a tooth and Roman gladiators. The only acceptable criteria, for me, is if it also had strong deterrent value, which it does not.

            Absolutely none of this is based on me holding those types of criminals in great regard or valuing their life. It is based on me not wanting to live in the kind of society that lusts for blood & retribution.

            This is amply demonstrated by the USA's support of the death penalty & deadly force self-defense. Very Christian country, but obviously the wrong, bait & switch, kind of Christianity. We sell you the admirable, no-violence, New Testament, but we practice the Old Testament. Result? A not very safe place, albeit safer than Mexico. I like Americans in general, but their willingness to resort to deadly force is not an endearing trait.

            YMMV.

            * Bernie Madoff I could see making an exception for. That man has blighted the lives of enough of thousands of people that normal morals need not apply. Given Mexico's hyper-violence, there are also plenty of murderers for whom I would, exceptionally, support the death penalty as well. But there is NO indication these were anything but common industrial thieves.

  10. i like crisps
    Coat

    EBAY!!!!!!!

    They missed a trick here, could've flogged the glow-sticks to all the 'Dirty Bomb' fetishists out there.

  11. King Jack
    Terminator

    Monkey Dust

    Reminds of a sketch on that show. Two numpties trying to sell radio active stuff door to door. With bits of their bodies falling off and them vomiting. Classic

  12. James O'Shea Silver badge

    sigh

    Many, many, MANY years ago I read a bad thriller titled "The Hot Car". The basic plot was that a bunch of no-nuke-kooks broke into a research facility and stole the cobalt-60 irradiator... ah, that is, 'liberated the evil source of Gea-destroying macho fascism'. They literally lifted it out of the, ahem, blue water. They knew enough to park it under water themselves, but not enough to know that putting into the radiator of one of their cars was Not A Good Idea(tm). Before the end of the first chapter they're all dead of radiation poisoning. However, the lump of Co-60 is still in the car, parked outside. And the car gets stolen, 'cause, hey, they parked it in East LA and left it there for a few days. (They didn't have much choice in the matter, being all dead and all...) It's an Alfa Romeo, with the engine in the middle. This means, of course, that the car thief is a dead man, too, as he sat less than 30 centimeters away from an unshielded gamma source. The car travels up and down the various highways of Southern California and Northern Mexico, leaving a trail of bodies, for the rest of the book.

    I had thought that the plot was highly contrived and that no-one could possibly be that stupid. I stand corrected.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: sigh

      That actually sounds like it has the potential to be a good movie! It would need a name suitable for a Hollywood thriller though. Something like "Cobalt 60 in a car" or "Gone in Co60 seconds"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: sigh / The Hot Car

      Repo Man !!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repo_Man_(1984_film)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: sigh / The Hot Car

        It would also need Samuel Jackson for some blaxploitation.

        "That fucking car is GONNA BURN YOUR ASS, Nigger!"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: sigh

      Already been done...sort of anyway. Look for a play for Today, 1977 'Stronger than the Sun'.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't understand

    Which is not unusual, but...

    Why did it need a truck to transport a tube six inches long?

    1. Not That Andrew
      Mushroom

      Re: I don't understand

      You don't transport radioactive waste with other waste. You also don't save it up till you have a whole truck full to transport.

    2. PhilBuk

      Re: I don't understand

      Maybe something to do with the fucking great piece of lead that it's stored in.

      Phil.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: I don't understand

        Maybe something to do with the fucking great piece of lead that it's stored in.

        And probably even then, the driver wants a good bit of inverse-squares law on his side. Like most of a truck's length?

        Now you know another reason why slip-streaming or staying in a truck-driver's blind spot for a long time might be bad for you!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the fucking great piece of lead

        Ahhh. Good point!

        I'm beginning to get that small blue glow. I hope it's understanding, not radiation!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't understand

      Inverse square law.

      When I had the job of disposing of about 500 curies of a gaseous radioisotope, the little bottles eventually left in a large artic trailer under negative pressure. Overkill perhaps, but accidents do happen on the road and have to be allowed for.

  14. Stratman

    Good job it didn't happen in Blighty

    "Have members of your family been killed by stuff they stole? Call Shysters-R-Us for a no-win-no-fee payday"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or The BBC News Site

      Have you been affected by a radiation accident? Are any of your family dying of radiation sickness right now?

  15. fortran

    Re: I don't understand

    Following up other reports on this, the source is about 3000 Curies of Co-60 as 40 grams of cobalt pellets in a copper cylinder (and copper is worth money, even a piece that is 10cm long by 3 cm in diameter). The field at one m is expected to be around 3000 REM/hour. At 1m distance unshielded, I am guessing LD-50 is 9 minutes.

    The reason this cylinder has to be shipped in a truck, is the shipping container is heavy. I would imagine a few hundred pounds anyway.

    1. fortran

      Re: I don't understand

      Too slow on an edit:

      I think I seen a report on this, that the source was found 1 mile from the truck (isolated area). Yet another report says there are 6 men at a local hospital complaining of radiation poisoning.

      Some of what appears to be facts here, may be in error. It was a dumb thing to steal. If this slug of copper had of ended up in recycle and melted down (cobalt is a good alloying element for copper, at least for some applications), it would have been as annoying as the heat of iron or steel that got contaminated many years ago.

  16. deshepherd

    Darius Jedburgh anyone?

  17. Rex Chapman

    Only 60 grams?

    I wish media panic reporting would take a gander at Fukushima and elevate the same tracer pitch reports. The whole of the pacific is being contaminated & the plant itself is getting worse; 60 grams, try 1500 tons of spent fuel 30meters in the air in a seismically rated 0 building in one of the worst areas for earthquakes. Clean up Fukishima

    1. Don Jefe
      Stop

      Re: Only 60 grams?

      No dude. Just no. You can't make golf balls to donuts comparisons like that and expect anyone to take your comments seriously. The two events aren't comparable at all.

      I'm not sure what you think is going on over there, but big industrial accidents take many years to clean up. The Japanese want it cleaned up a fuck of a lot more than you do. Having you running around like a scared puppy isn't helping anyone. Please stop.

      1. itzman

        Re: Only 60 grams?

        Japanese and Tepco have been commended for their response.

        http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-IAEA-praises-Fukushima-decommissioning-approach-0512134.html

        The lengths the are going to are totally absurd. 1msV/yr is the excess they are decontaminating to. Dartmoor is 10-30msV/yr. Other parts of the world are naturally 200+

        Lord knows what an unshielded cobalt 60 source is ...2 sieverts an HOUR? a million times more?

        "there is no safe limit for water m'lud' the victim died in a teaspoonful."

        ,.

    2. Martin Budden
      Boffin

      Re: Only 60 grams?

      @Rex Chapman you need to look at this.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge

        @Martin: Re: Only 60 grams?

        Bootnote of your linked diagram: "However, keep in mind that I am not a radiation expert, and this chart is intended for general public informational use only."

        Radiation worker one-year dose limit: 50 msv <--- this is outdated by over two years, it is currently 100 msv, Japanese authorities have elevated it to 250mSv and apparently, workers do not adhere to the raised values ... not sure of the outcome.

        Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_50

        Most of the diagram is correct though.

        A good read: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201307190080

        TEPCO, Japanese authorities, just like the WHO, are lying scum. According to WHO, Chernobyl disaster only killed 500 and that figure has not changed over the past 25 years+ - Apparently, Igor's parents who both died of leukemia do not count and Igor (7) will not count, although he cannot leave his orphanage bed because his bones are so full of strontium they may break at the slightest move, just like most other kids around him he has a life-expectancy of 5 more years.

        I live in France, there is a nuke plant just 30 km from where I live - they lost 10 kg of uranium for a period of 6 months just outside the plant, on the ground ... Most workers there are temporary staff with absolutely no clue of what they are doing.

        The big problem is storing the waste for 2 million years ... it is cheaper to hire half of Africa, put them on electricity generating bicycles and pay them royally, by African standards, than safeguard nuclear waste for such a long period of time - don't get me wrong, that is not the solution - just a cheaper solution than nuke plants and there are many more.

        If we invested 5% of the resources we invest in nuke technology for green technology, we would have cheaper energy by the end of the decade, however, green technology means the energy producers lose their monopoly, who would want that ? NB: we lose 60% of the energy we produce in transportation of the energy. With fields totaling 400 km2, we could generate as much electricity as all French nukes combined with todays tech, without counting the 40% increase in efficiency the Dutch managed to develop.

        If you back nuke plants you are an idiot, no ifs, buts, or maybes. So, lets count the idiots once more ... ;-)

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: @Martin: Only 60 grams?

          Err, Hans?

          I think you must have watched so much Simpsons that you've started to believe it's a documentary...

        2. OldWarrior

          Re: @Martin: Only 60 grams?

          Would you do some math for me, or point me to a conversion site? When I was involved in the Radiology field from 1971 until 1988, we used REM as the standard, based off the RAD. 1 RAD=10B ionizations /cm3 in water. A REM is Roentgen Equivalent Man. The difference is that tissue is denser than water so it takes less radiation to cause 10B ionization's. My life history was about 4.5 REM Whole Body exposure. I would like to know the comparison from REM to the new msv.

          Most of that was in the first few years when radiation safety was much laxer, and I did a number of Radium Needle implant insertion and removals for Uterine Ca. Back in those days, at times the nursing staff was not even warned to take extra precautions in patient care of these patients, meaning I had to insist on policy changes to prevent pregnant or fertile nurses from caring for these patients for the ~3 days that they were inpatients with the needles in them. Administration called me on the "Carpet" because the Nurses Union insisted that the Hospital buy lead aprons for Nursing Staff. I finally quit when they refused to spend ~$400 for a Cassette Holder for the Ortho Table. Their policy was for a nurse (without Apron until I educated them) to hold the film cassette against the patient's hip for the lateral (side) view in Hip Pinning.

        3. OldWarrior

          Re: @Martin: Only 60 grams?

          Nevermind, I found the answer at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part020/part020-1004.html

          (1 rem=0.01 sievert)

  18. Adam 1 Silver badge
    FAIL

    They're doing it wrong

    The trick is to get close enough to the pellets to obtain superpowers but not so close as to die of radiation poisoning!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: They're doing it wrong

      Tricky to arrange though.

      What you need is a whole line of people and then later check which ones are normal, which are dead and which get a superpower

  19. Herby Silver badge

    Didn't they use...

    "Nuke-away". Mork had access to the stuff from the planet he came from.

    Nanu Nanu

  20. Jon Green
    Coat

    So...

    ...come up to the lab and see what's on the slab.

    I see you shiver with antici...pation.

    But maybe the brain is really to blame.

    So I'll remove the cause but not the...radiation...

    -- Señor Frank N Furter (on a bad night)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    majormajor

    My father was a cancer consultant from 1940's-80's. He had radiotherapy machines for his private practice in the drawing room (just electric sources but still needing a chunky lead wall to the room) and old X-ray machines rusting in the garage but he also had a stock of radium (owned by HMG in those days, too valuable to sell, just rented out), which would be inserted into tumours as pellets. Our car was stolen one day with the radium source box in the boot. He contacted the local newpaper who ran a front page story - the car was back the next day with a note of apology. I am not sure if the source were in the box at the time or safely in the hospital but the thieves didn't know!

  22. MarketingTechnoDude

    I had a great uncle who picked up an open Cobalt 60 source in a shipyard

    Many years ago when we used to manufacture objects called Steel Hulled Ships ( which ironically were invented in the UK ), my great uncle who was head foreman welder at a shipyard in the North East of England mistakenly picked up a pot containing a Cobolt 60 source (used for X Ray inspection of welds) - bit of a new concept back then. Some clown doing the XRay had forgot to reseal the lid of the source and left it open over the weekend.

    My Uncle only briefly picked up the source to move it out of the way of some welding he had to do.

    He was off work for 6 months with radiation burns on his left arm.

    Ironically he lived into his 90's.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Karma and all that

    At least they got the source back, I'd have hated to see this get into copper house wiring etc.

    Its bad enough with Al plated with copper, but radiation as well is "Just Plain Nasty" (tm)

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    IIRC this is an old episode of "Dragnet"

    Sadly that did not end well for the thieves either.

    1. Chozo

      Re: IIRC this is an old episode of "Dragnet"

      the movie "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) comes to mind and here's a teaser

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HEJC41P7o8

  25. Trigun
    Mushroom

    Theft is a crime, but it doesn't deserve a (lingering) death as punishment. I feel bad for these guys.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Trigun

      When you decide to commit a crime, you cannot expect that society has thought through all the consequences of possible criminal behaviour and protected you from them.

      It isn't a case of "deserve", but a case of how things are. The consequence of theft can be anything from profit to death. It's just that, as Nicholas Nassim Taleb has made a bob or two from pointing out, most people do not stop to consider just how bad the rare downside could actually be.

      1. Trigun

        Re: @Trigun

        Oh I agree totally, but that still doesn't stop me from feeling a bit of compassion for these guys and that's what I was trying to get across.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Trigun

        It has become a question of deserve as many in this thread are saying exactly that. Trigun may have been responding to that.

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: @... "Nicholas Nassim Taleb"

        You are hereby awarded bonus points.

    2. itzman

      it wont be a lingering death.

      High level gamma BURNS as much as causes cancers. It is used to kill cancers. you die rapidly or you survive.

      Any cancer issues show up 15 years or more later.

  26. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    Do something good; get left with a warm glow

    Do something bad; same result + death!

  27. Evil Graham

    Speaking of criminal

    Kipping in a petrol station while your truckload of nuclear waste is parked outside - that's criminally negligent as well. It's all very well saying the thieves deserve what they get, but they could have dumped the stuff anywhere. And the outcome could have been a lot worse.

  28. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
  29. itzman

    I heard

    ..that it had been found all still sealed up.

    I wonder...if they are hoping to get the crims to give themselves up...

    Cobalt 60 is fun. There was a case where a load got melted for scrap and ended up in a building as p[art of the steel structure. They analysed the people who had lived there. Most actually had a greater life expectancy :-)

    Of course there were as always 'other factors'..

  30. Mike Flugennock
    Mushroom

    Looks like NAFTA's really working...

    "...A hospital handyman turned thief exposed neighbours in a Cuidad Juárez neighbourhood to radiation poisoning for months starting in December 1983 after he stole an unmarked capsule from an obsolete radiotherapy machine that contained a dangerous batch of Cobalt-60.

    Much of the contamination ended up on a local junkyard and the whole mess was only discovered after contaminated steel was shipped from local factories to the US..."

    Nuclear detonation icon because, well, y'know, radiation.

  31. HippyFreetard

    http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/06/21794583-six-released-from-mexican-hospital-but-detained-in-theft-of-cobalt-60

  32. Nathan 13

    This should be the standard punishment...

    for burglary, robbery, armed robbery, dealing class A, all knife and gun crime, rape, child rape, murder, care home abuse etc!!

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: This should be the standard punishment...

      What should the punishment be for reactionary commentary that calls for breaking the law as punishment for breaking the law?

      I'm not sure you're thinking your grand social justice tactics through.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: This should be the standard punishment...

        GENTLEMEN!

        WE ARE NOW ENTERING THE DAILY MAIL!

        PLEASE DO NOT BE ALARMED BUT STAY VIGILANT AT ALL TIMES!

        OCCASIONAL SQUALLS OF $IDEOLOGY ARE TO BE EXPECTED.

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: This should be the standard punishment...

      Arson, Murder and jaywalking...

  33. Slx

    A similar incident happened in 1987 in Brazil and it did not end well for those who came into contact with the stolen materials!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goiânia_accident

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suspected theives have been detained…

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-07/mexico-radioactive-poisoning/5142270

    The authorities aren't sure yet, but they think these 6 people have something to do with the theft.

  35. The Stolly

    Ooh! this is heavy, must be gold.

  36. Robert 31
    Alert

    So why aren't terrorists...

    ...truck jacking radioactive shipments in countries with security problems like Mexico?

    More to the point, why aren't people worried about this easy way to get a city emptying weapon?

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: So why aren't terrorists...

      ...because the "dirty bomb" just isn't practical, and this ain't fissile material, so you can make a nuclear bomb.

      Think about it... would you be more scared by pictures of people with missing limbs or of pictures of uninjured people with an elevated risk of cancer in 10-20 years time? Which is the better press for the morally bankrupt crusader?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: So why aren't terrorists...

        > morally bankrupt crusader

        Yeah well no. They may be quite a few things, but the morally bankrupt side is "us", with our liberal interventionists always ready to shoot and cry.

        We also dirty bombed quite a few cities AFAIK. Just pray that God doesn't exist or there will be hell to pay.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goiana incident

    Nuff said.

    60Co is nasty, 137Cs is worse.

    131I is about as nasty as you can get, this isotope is used to treat thyroid cancer in miniscule quantities.

    As far as nasty isotopes go, the most dangerous are alpha and beta emitters with long half lives such as 90Sr and suchlike as these irradiate over a long time and bioaccumulate.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Goiana incident

      "As far as nasty isotopes go, the most dangerous are alpha and beta emitters with long half lives such as 90Sr and suchlike as these irradiate over a long time and bioaccumulate."

      I can understand alpha and beta emitters to be murder once they're in you, but what about gamma emitters that are so hard to contain? At least alpha and beta emitters can be contained easily enough while outside, but gamma rays pass through a whole lotta stuff, making them pretty dangerous even when some distance away from the body.

  38. Hawkish

    The real criminals in this are...

    The real criminals are those who allow Cobalt 60 to be transported without a heavily armed Police escort! Utter morons!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    What a laugh and interesting read the comments in this article are.

    Wasn't going to comment on this article originally. I now feel the urge however to mention that this is one of the big reasons I read The Register. The comments section in articles are often filled with both insightful and outright humorous posts which can go on to make my day.

    I've long had an interest in reading up on disaster-related incidents of various types and there was at least one story linked which I hadn't had heard before. Thank you for that, Dan Paul.

    (One of the original reasons for my interest was from back when I was a rather young chap when I noticed that everyone keeps banging on about how everything nuclear is the root of all evil. Yeah, radiation can be bad. We get it. It's stupid however that even the smallest of incidents involving any form of radiation often over-shadows much larger incidents of other types. I, for one, have noticed that while just about everyone has heard of Chernobyl almost no-one I know is aware of the massive chemical incident in Bhopal. And the two incidents weren't exactly far off from one another.)

    This bit though made me spend the next half hour cleaning my monitor;

    Daniel B.: "Indeed, all radioactive stuff has explicit labels like the all-known fan-shaped one and "MATERIAL RADIOACTIVO" stamped on it."

    I like crisps: "or MATERIAL......SCORCHIO!!!!"

    And now for a suitable icon...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: What a laugh and interesting read the comments in this article are.

      A lot of the fear of nuclear incidents comes from the fear of long-term (meaning decades or more) of no-man's lands. Bhopal was tragic, yes. But after the disaster's passed, the mess can still be cleaned up. Even Times Beach (dioxin contamination) was wiped clean and is habitable again after a determined effort. Can't say the same about Pripyat, where a fair chunk is still too deadly to even approach.

  40. Martin Maloney

    Who can resist?

    "DANGER: RADIOACTIVE" label = "WET PAINT" sign

  41. cortland

    In custody

    Only slightly burned?

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/06/world/americas/mexico-radioactive-theft/

  42. Technological Viking
    Facepalm

    Raiders of the what?

    A friend pointed out that these dudes "Raiders of the Lost Arc'd themselves"

  43. Squander Two
    Devil

    Karma.

    I can't believe Earl Hickey wasn't somehow involved in this.

  44. M7S

    In Mexico, thieves die like dogs.....

    ....in this case, they die like Strontium Dogs.*

    *OK, some poetic licence taken with the source (oops, sorry again)

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