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Thieves Seize Radioactive Lab Component in Mexico

A Mexican federal law enforcement officer, seen in May. Armed thieves reportedly stormed a Mexican government compound and seized a system containing radioactive components. A Mexican federal law enforcement officer, seen in May. Armed thieves reportedly stormed a Mexican government compound and seized a system containing radioactive components. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Armed thieves stormed a Mexican government compound and seized a system containing radioactive components, the EFE news agency reports.

The system -- which held quantities of cesium 37 and americium beryllium -- vanished in a heist earlier this week on the outskirts of Mexico City, EFE said in a Thursday article. Authorities for years have aired worries that illicitly obtained radioactive material may serve as an ingredient in a radiological "dirty bomb."

Mexico's second-highest official said the government was responding to the incident, which reportedly took place at Mexico's National Construction Laboratory.

"We have the report regarding the theft of this material and the alerts and protocol we follow in these cases have already been implemented," Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told journalists, after he spoke to state police officials and prosecutors.

Mexico's federal government said radiation from the system's contents has little chance of producing lifelong medical consequences. Still, the substance may generate short-term symptoms in any individual who handles it in the absence of adequate shielding, or who remains near the stolen material for a significant length of time.

Central authorities distributed information on the reported theft to officials in Mexico City, as well as the states of Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Tlaxcala and Veracruz.

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