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Radioactive Container Discovered in Honduras

November 2, 2007

TEGUCIGALPA – Honduran authorities are investigating a cargo container that registered radioactive in the Caribbean port of Puerto Cortes, an official said Oct. 29, while noting that it could be residue from some kind of medical material or equipment.

The container set off radiation detectors Oct. 27 at the port and Customs facilities in Puerto Cortes, according to Tax and Customs Service Chief Armando Sarmiento.

He said that the container, which has been isolated, contains scrap metal which was to be exported from Honduras to China by a firm in the northern city of San Pedro Sula.

The official said experts from various government agencies were investigating the radioactive contents of the container.

“According to the readings from the specialized devices donated to us by the government of the United States, it’s Cesium 137, a highly radioactive material,” said Sarmiento.

“It might possibly be a product of some waste from a hospital … (like so-called) cobalt bombs or X-ray machines,” which must be handled “in the proper way to guarantee people’s safety,” the official said.

“However, this material was being exported as part of some scrap metal to a port in China,” he said.

Sarmiento said that this type of material “could fall into the wrong hands … (and) be used for other kinds of activities, even to make a ‘dirty bomb’ that could be used by terrorists to attack the civilian population in any part of the world.”

The Tax and Customs Director emphasized the efficiency of the detection systems installed at Puerto Cortes as part of an international security network for maritime cargo.

 

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