I used to work with a 30-year-old 60Co gamma source (basically an enormous lead barrel with a small shielded tube in the midle that could transport samples into and out of the center), and items exposed to the source (ie, unshielded from the 60Co at a distance of a few centimeters) received something like a hundred Rads a minute. The LD50 for gamma is something like 500 Rads. Assuming the 60Co here was anything like the purity of the 30-year-old source I had access to, and assuming there was more of it - if these folks spent much time with the 60Co unshielded, a lethal dose is pretty easy to imagine.
That sounds more than vaguely like it’s from a Cohen brothers movie.
Only if one of them ended up in a wood chipper - and he was played by Steve Buscemi
Predating the “narco wars”, law-abiding citizens of Mexico have long been wary of nighttime car travel due to the possibility of becoming a road crime statistic (if statistics were kept). A few roads you are warned to avoid even during daytime.
Most likely you’ll be okay, but predators will be watching. These stupid stunted bastards are lazy and greedy and indiscriminate, they keep on robbing the same highway over and over again to diminishing returns as word of mouth spreads among potential travelers.
In fed-up Mexico, the radioactive truckjackers have nobody’s respect nor sympathy. The concern is for innocent bystanders who may have been exposed.
• “I don’t care what’s in the truck, it’s mine now, give it to me.”
• “Okey doke, here you go, then.”
Actually, the dialogue sounds like a cross between O Brother, and No Country for Old Men.
This does seem like a case for Randall Munroe–after the Fukushima accident, he drew a frequently cited infographic on radiation exposure,
Never open the boot of a 1964 Chevy Malibu.
…Belated apologies for missing robcruickshank’s Youtuber upstream.
Wasn’t this pretty much the plot of Repo Man?
Nice table legs that glow in the dark!
Again, I file this in the could-have-been-worse bucket. These are potent sources, and they need some scarier labeling to convince folks not to goof around with them if you ask me. Consider the Goiania accident in Brazil.
It reminds me a great deal of the Goiânia incident in Brazil, which was heartbreaking to read about.
In that case, thieves broke into a radiotherapy clinic which had been shuttered in a legal dispute - the owners were locked out and couldn’t secure it. The thieves stole the core from a Cesium-137 collimated radiation source, partly broke it open, getting severe radiation burns on their arms in the process (one eventually lost most of his hand, one lost an arm) and sold it to a scrap dealer. The scrapyard owner was amazed by the blue glow coming from inside, and got some of his employees to finish breaking it open.
They found all these beautiful blue pellets and amazing glowing dust inside. His brother got some of the dust out, took it home and gave the pretty stuff to his six year old daughter Leide to play with, so she did all the kinds of stuff kids would do with something that amazing - painted it on her face and body as makeup, finger-painted pictures with it, and then ate a sandwich with her hands still covered with the dust. She eventually got a dose of somewhere around 6 Grays or 600 Rem.
Leide died within a month; she had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin. Around 250 people were found to have been significantly contaminated with the radioactive materials, over 40 of them received large doses, and 3 others also died.
At least in this case they’ve recovered the source quickly; I hope only the thieves were exposed and not their families.
Scary labeling is no substitute for operational security. How is it so easy to steal bombmaking radioactives?
Stray medical and industrial sources are comparatively common. There are just so many of them (and, breathless media drivel aside, if you can’t build a nuke with it, the feds aren’t worried enough to pay all that much more to watch over them), and they are usually entombed in safely shielded containers that take quite some work to compromise.
The container will usually be labelled (the classic trefoil and/or ISO 21482) to discourage people from messing with it. The classier flavor of scrapyard now comes equipped with radiation sensors to snag anything that comes in inadvertently. Some still get off leash for a while, now and again.
I have no sympathy for these blaggards. They carjacked with lethal weapons and got what they deserved: pandora’s f**king box.
Why should we pity those that make this world worse?
There sure seems to be a lot of bloodlust on this comments page! If this had gone to trial, and they had received the death penalty for carjacking, would anybody here think that was a fair sentence!? Of course not! Then how can these commenters possibly say that they deserved what they got? Sorry folks, what they deserved, was to go to jail.
I think you are mischaracterizing people’s statements. They aren’t saying that the crooks deserved to be sentenced to death, but that they got what they deserved for stupidly opening a container that was labeled “Danger-Radioactive Material”. If you put your hand in a rattlesnake nest and get bitten, you got what you deserved. These thieves carjacked a truck and then opened a well-labeled box of death. They got what they deserved.
Inconveniently, the NSTS is not available to the public (and only covers relatively well-behaved sources in the US), so it’s difficult to say how many of the things are in the wild; but it is suspected to not be a small number(the Los Alamos ‘Off-Site Source Recovery Project’ is delighted to say that they’ve hunted down over 30,000 sources since 1997, and they don’t deal with sources that are either still in use, or ones that have gone far enough off the rails that they aren’t known). With that many, and with so many uses in a broad range of industry and medicine, tighter security just isn’t likely to happen.
If you try to get your hands on enough enriched material to build a nice bomb, or even a modest research reactor, you’ll probably raise some eyebrows; but mere beta and gamma emitters are just too useful and too common. Various entities care; but even more devices are out there, including lots of downmarket locations where paperwork just isn’t tightly kept.
Because it’s not bomb making material. It’s a Cobalt-60 source used for radiotherapy. It doesn’t explode. It just quietly sits there emitting gamma and beta radiation.
As best as I can tell, the only people interested in dirty bombs are the press and politicians for the purposes of scaring us about terrists.
Wikipedia’s article on Cobalt-60 thinks this incident used a 111 TBq source, which is just a couple grams of Co-60. This is enough Co-60 that the carjackers are almost certainly dead men walking. That source should be handing out untreatable lethal doses in 5-10 minutes at one meter distance.
That sounds like enough to make a dirty bomb, but at the same time, who is going to be able to build that into a bomb as shrapnel and have any members of the cell survive construction and storage? If the Tsarnaev’s had hid that in their closet, they would been found out when their neighbors showed up in the ER with radiation sickness.
But on the plus side, Mexico just got a handful of new Marvel superheroes.
Well, as we’re lead to believe, “our enemies” have zero interest in surviving the next ten minutes if they can kill a citizen or fifteen. Except if that were the case, wouldn’t they target infrastructure for most the most deaths? Perhaps they all died doing attempting idiotic stunts like this. Or perhaps the threat was vastly overestimated and the resulting fear used for political ends.