December 5, 2013

"I believe, definitely, that the thieves did not know what they had... They will, without a doubt, die."

"They were interested in the crane, in the vehicle."

But they could not resist opening that box, which contained cobalt-60.

41 comments:

Original Mike said...

It's good news they found the source.

Strelnikov said...

"Don't look in the box!"

MadisonMan said...

I've not heard of a Darwin Award winner quite like this one.

Strelnikov said...

Maybe that's what was going on in "Pulp Fiction".

David said...

They will die, but whether they die from the effects of exposure to Cobalt 60 is uncertain. It depends on how long they remained in the area of the martial once it was unshielded. It also depends on how much Cobalt 60 there was. I do not think either fact is known.

St. George said...

Being a dog with a bone here, again I'd like to mention the book I just finished—"Command and Control." It covers in great and chewy detail the history not only US nuclear war making strategy but also the physical management of those arms. It detail hundreds and hundreds of accidents involving these devices, any number of which could have caused unintended detonations. Repeat—hundreds of accidents. And again and again it describes the bereft and horrified reactions of senior policymakers from presidents on down to the nation's nuclear strategies over the years.

So that that cobalt thing got lost is standard procedure.

Once at a SAC base, as a joke, an officer took a dummy H-bomb off site covered in a tarp in the back of a pickup truck. It was stored next to real devices. Just like that, he waltzed off with it.

One last story—Our Polaris missiles in the 1960s? Seventy-five percent were duds. Why? Because Edward Teller retrofitted them all with a washer that corroded and would have caused them not to detonate. 75%.

JMS said...

David, other reports said 40 grams. If they were exposed to 40 grams Co-60 unshielded for just a short while, they will be dead. Dose rate from one millicurie at 1cm is 13.2 rads/hour. One gram is about 1100 curies.

Rob said...

As to unexpected cargo, see Repo Man. (It also contains the definitive discussion of relationships.)

Mark said...

JMS, the Independent's story gave that 40 gram figure as well.

Another story said they expected them to be dead in 1-3 days, but it lacked the 40 gram figure or much detail so I am skeptical [of the fact that they interpreted the quantity and amount of exposure for me].

chrisnavin.com said...

Dios Mio!

The Drill SGT said...

sort of like lifting up the lid on the Ark of the Covenant

Paul Zrimsek said...

Karmajacking.

YoungHegelian said...

Was the truck & box not marked with the universal radioactive hazard sign? I find that difficult to believe.

I don't find it difficult to believe that these guys might have been too stoned, drunk, or ignorant to know what they were looking at.

FullMoon said...

I expect a ransom demand the next time.

David said...

60 grams = .13 pounds.

That's why Cobalt 60 is seen as prime dirty bomb material.

Interestingly, in a scenario involving a Cobalt 60 dirty bomb in Manhattan, the conclusion was that immediate evacuation would be unnecessary. The dispersal from the explosion would lower the immediate threat to acceptable levels. However, the long term contamination would result in high rates of cancer, thus rendering Manhattan "uninhabitable."



Rocketeer said...

Schrödinger's Mexican Truckjackers

Balfegor said...

Reminds me a little of the Goiania incident. Though with less sympathetic victims this time around.

Patrick said...

That's a pretty steep penalty for theft. Eventheft of a crane.

jimbino said...

Yeah right. How long did it take for Marie Curie to die of radium poisoning, or Feynmann from Uranium or Plutonium?

A lump of radium will light up your life!

EDH said...

The movie I was thinking of was "The Ring".

Don't watch the video tape!

"You will die in seven days."

Paco Wové said...

From a related story link:

"The atomic energy agency said it has an activity of 3,000 curries, or Category 1, meaning “it would probably be fatal..."

Stick that in your vindaloo and spice it.

Scott M said...

Don't look in the box!"

"In my experience boxes are usually empty, except for sometimes a little cheese stuck to the top, and that one time Pepperoni. What a day that was."

LordSomber said...

What's in the box?

Unknown said...

FWIW,
context for 3000 Ci -- rule of thumb 1 Curie, 1 meter, 1 R/h where roughly 350-450 R of exposure to the torso without medical attention leads to death 50% of the time. So if they had the source at arms length for about 7 minutes, they better get help. If they managed to get, say, 10,000 R then they are probably dead men walking.

Unknown said...

FWIW,
context for 3000 Ci -- rule of thumb 1 Curie, 1 meter, 1 R/h where roughly 350-450 R of exposure to the torso without medical attention leads to death 50% of the time. So if they had the source at arms length for about 7 minutes, they better get help. If they managed to get, say, 10,000 R then they are probably dead men walking.

Clyde said...

"Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime: the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity."

Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Original Mike said...

"Life's hard. It's even harder when you're stupid.”
― John Wayne

ironrailsironweights said...

Being a dog with a bone here, again I'd like to mention the book I just finished—"Command and Control." It covers in great and chewy detail the history not only US nuclear war making strategy but also the physical management of those arms. It detail hundreds and hundreds of accidents involving these devices, any number of which could have caused unintended detonations.

Excellent book. One part I found especially fascinating was the account of the accidental dropping of a hydrogen bomb on North Carolina in 1961. Three of the four safety switches designed to prevent accidental detonation failed. Only the fourth, recently added switch prevented a 4-megaton explosion.

Peter

PB Reader said...

No lawyer will get them out of this.

PB Reader said...

The problem with our society is not that it seeks to aid the unfortunate, but that it protects the stupid from the results of their actions and spreads the cost among us all.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Sometimes the perfect crime lacks the perfect criminal.

Bob R said...

@Rob - Repo Man was the first thing that came to mind.

Rusty said...

Schrödinger's Mexican Truckjackers


Thread winner right there.

Original Mike said...

@Rusty: Dissenting vote from me. I vote PBReader's "No lawyer will get them out of this."

Michael K said...

This is not unique. There are other stories of radiation therapy devices being junked in Mexico and exposing the people to radiation. No statistics because it's Mexico.

Beldar said...

"They will, without a doubt, die."

True of everyone, since forever.

Eric said...

David, other reports said 40 grams. If they were exposed to 40 grams Co-60 unshielded for just a short while, they will be dead. Dose rate from one millicurie at 1cm is 13.2 rads/hour. One gram is about 1100 curies.

That's a hell of a thing to be driving down a Mexican highway.

Fprawl said...

I'm not going to look up the activity limits for Co-60, but "The criteria for determining whether a shipment of radioactive material is a "highway route controlled quantity" are found in 49 CFR 173.403,

That means, the POLICE meet the truck at each state line and follow it through the state. With lots of guns.

Robert Cook said...

"Maybe that's what was going on in 'Pulp Fiction.'"

A couple of others have alluded to REPO MAN, (a great movie!).

I think of KISS ME DEADLY, (another--earlier--great movie!).

Chris said...

Not the first time this has happened in Mexico:

http://www.nytimes.com/1984/05/01/science/nuclear-spill-at-juarez-looms-as-one-of-worst.html

Michael McNeil said...

Yeah right. How long did it take for Marie Curie to die of radium poisoning, or Feynmann from Uranium or Plutonium?

A lump of radium will light up your life!


I'm not going to comment on Feynman, but contrary to prevalent myth, it was discovered some years ago that Marie Curie did not die from radium poisoning.

In 1995 Madame Curie's body was exhumed as part of granting her France's highest honor (first time for a woman, for her own achievements), burial in the French national mausoleum, the Panthéon. To forestall possible escape of radioactivity (a word she herself coined) from her body during the process of reburial, France's Office de Protection contre les Rayonnements Ionisants (ORPI) took charge of the investigation.

A news piece in the scientific journal Nature described ORPI's findings:

“Curie's body was found to be enclosed in a wooden coffin, surrounded by a lead coffin, which itself was inside a further wooden coffin. ORPI found that the level of radiation caused by radium within the interior coffin was, at 360 becquerels per cubic metre, significantly higher than the 13 Bq m^−3 found at the entrance to the cemetery.

“But the level was still well below the maximum accepted safe levels of public exposure to radium of 7,000 Bq m^−3.  Given that the half-life of radium is 1,620 years, ORPI has concluded that Curie could not have been exposed to lethal levels of radium while she was alive.

“Although Curie's laboratory was highly contaminated with radium, an ORPI official points out that radium poses risks only if it is ingested either orally or through the skin.

“ORPI therefore speculates that Curie's illness was more likely to have been due to her use of radiography during the First World War, when precautions to protect against X-rays had not yet been introduced.”

Nature, Vol. 377, No. 6545 (14 Sep. 1995), p. 96: “X-rays, not radium, may have killed Curie.”