National Security: The theft of a truck carrying dangerous radioactive material combined with terrorist group activity in the hemisphere shows that the need for a secure border involves more than illegal immigration.
Mexican authorities said Wednesday they found the stolen truck and likely recovered all of the radioactive cobalt taken by a group of thieves who were probably after the truck, unaware it carried a deadly cargo.
Cobalt-60, which is used in radiation therapy to treat cancer, was being transported from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage center. But what if the thieves were terrorists who knew what the truck was carrying and targeted it to gain material for a so-called "dirty bomb"?
At a nuclear security summit in South Korea last year, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), identified cobalt-60 as one of the materials that could be used with conventional explosives to make such a weapon.
"A dirty bomb detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences," Amano said, according to a copy of his speech. Detonation of such a bomb in a big city, he warned, "could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences."
Bombs made with cobalt-60 "pose a threat mainly because even a fraction of a gram emits a huge number of high-energy gamma rays; such material is harmful whether outside or inside the body," according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service.
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