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Radioactive cobalt stolen in Poland, but no danger

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Dec. 8, 2010, 5:14 p.m. | World — by Associated Press
Poland's State Nuclear Agency said Wednesday a small amount of radioactive cobalt stolen from a foundry in the country's east is too small to pose a risk. The theft of between five and seven containers with Cobalt-60 was discovered last month during stocktaking at the bankrupt and shuttered Ursus foundry in Lublin.

Spokeswoman Monika Skotniczna said the cobalt — used in machines that made technical measurements — does not pose a threat to the public due to the small amount stolen, and its advanced age.

"These are old sources, so they don't have high activity," Skotniczna said. The only danger is if the Cobalt-60 is taken out of its lead shields, but even then "it's not life threatening," she added.

Though cobalt can be used to make a so-called radioactive "dirty bomb," Skotniczna said the quantity stolen was not enough to make anything dangerous.

"The amount is too small. It is useless for terrorists," she said.

She said the containers, weighing dozens of kilograms each, were probably stolen by scrap metal collectors.

Poland has informed the European Union and neighboring countries of the theft, in line with international regulations.

Croatia's state-run Institute for Radiological and Nuclear Safety said it has asked customs services to be extra vigilant.

It was not immediately clear whether other European countries had issued similar warnings. Germany's federal police and customs agency said they were not aware of the reports of the stolen cobalt and border controls had not been changed.
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