Radioactive Material Stolen Outside Mexico City

Truck carrying Colbalt-60, a synthetic isotope used in health care, was stolen.
3:00 | 12/04/13

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Transcript for Radioactive Material Stolen Outside Mexico City
This is a special group. Hello I'm Taina Hernandez in New York with his ABC news digital special report. The search is on for a truck carrying what's described as extremely dangerous radioactive material. After the vehicle was stolen outside Mexico City. Missing an undetermined amount of cobalt sixty used for radio therapy and cancer treatment. It -- news Karen Travers joins us now from Washington with the latest -- care. -- Thai officials say they don't know who stole lists or even if they knew what it was they were stealing. One former law enforcement official tells us that this is not exactly what you would -- if you were trying to build a radioactive bomb. That's fine sounds like it was written from the plot of -- Hollywood thriller. A truck carrying extremely dangerous radioactive material stolen in Mexico. Authorities are scrambling to tracking down. -- stolen by two armed men at a gas station 35 miles outside Mexico City on Monday. Hundreds of miles from the US Mexico border. The truck carrying cobalt sixty a radioactive isotope used in cancer treatments and to sterilize medical equipment this -- -- like. Radioactive material stolen from a nuclear power plant. It was traveling from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage facility. The international atomic energy agency said in a statement that when the truck was stolen. The source was properly shielded however the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding or if it was damaged. Mexican authorities are conducting a search but there's no indication that the truck was headed for the border. US law enforcement and Homeland Security officials are working closely with them. Don't know who did it worth or even aware of what they stole it doesn't sound like with what little information we have. That this is something you would steal if you -- gonna make a radioactive bomb. US officials say there's no reason to panic but border agents armed with radiation detecting equipment are on alert -- He -- how often does this kind of thing happened it seems so extraordinary. We looked into that today and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that in this plea your point while also within roughly the last year there work. Ten instances here in the US a stolen lost or abandoned nuclear material. And none of them were considered significant -- all but one or recovered. The one that is still missing it is somewhere in a court apparently there are still people who are living with plutonium powered pacemakers. Hospitals are supposed to take those out before their -- but it sounds like. This one got away -- Interesting ABC's Karen Travers thank you for joining us from our Washington bureau. And now we also had ABC news senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas in our bureau in Washington. Here cobalt sixty how dangerous is it. Well who. Law enforcement officials can only go on what the nuclear road -- Victoria experts say and they say it's extremely dangerous. The concern for this material is that but if it's released it can cause medical damage to someone. And environmental concerns also combined with conventional explosives in theory in theory. You could make a radiological or dirty bomb but the law enforcement officials say how much radiation it would expose the public. Unclear but it would be a weapon of fear because the moment that people would hear that radiation has been released there would be great concern obviously. So we're talking about more psychological impact then that a medical impact of physical impact here we're certainly not talking about. Nuclear grade material here. Correcting you -- a C a mushroom cloud. With anything associated with this but. On the other hand it is not based on the way you see Homeland Security officials reacting. The way you recede officials. In the international community reacting and officials in Mexico clearly this is not -- -- -- -- you want floating around society. Now let's talk about the location where that truck was stolen about 700 miles from the nearest US town it was stolen. In Mexico are there concerns about this being transported across the border. Well as we said earlier they don't know exactly who took it they're hoping. That this was just a theft of opportunity of chance where they may have even been after the truck more so than what was in it but they don't know. And until they can find. The vehicle and find this particular device which again is use in the treatment of a cancer patients. They won't know for certain so there is a pretty significant effort intense effort -- under way. In Mexico to find out what's happened to this particular truck. I think concern at this point that the publicity in the news coverage about this -- -- truck that may in fact tip off. Seafood and never knew what it contained in the first place. And -- typically sell it. What -- it typically you know law enforcement officials. Like getting the information out because you know help someone identified. The truck help them locate truck and also if you're. A becoming criminal and you stole -- -- got radioactive material and it. You might want to get rid of it more quickly. All right and and what is it what is the danger -- if they have the material and they. The open it up despite all the warnings -- on the the box is there. How how badly could -- harm people come in contact. We're waiting to talk to some additional -- experts on this but from what we've read this can be potentially lethal to people if you give him close proximity to a but this particular device. I'm told is a very solid. It is is is built to house. This picture and not release it in the any significant way so it has the international atomic energy agency said it's it's safe this long -- it's not exposed to. Here and in exposed to to people that could -- be next to it. ABC's Pierre Thomas so -- -- just so much for joining us. How we're talking about a theft of material that can save lives but it can also harm. People as well -- Hernandez and his ABC news digital special report thank you for joining us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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