KYZYLORDA , Kazakhstan, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A 100-pound container of radioactive cesium-137, lost in Kazakhstan last week, has been found, the country's Interior Ministry reported.
After a call to police in the city of Kyzylorda, indicating a truck was driving through the city carrying the container, the vehicle was stopped and the driver and a passenger were detained.
Details of the loss of the radioactive material only mentioned it may have fallen off a truck a week ago. The incident sparked a renewed interest in a growing global problem, that of radioactive materials in countries unprepared to secure them and whether the material could eventually be part of radical groups' plans to build radioactive weapons known as "dirty bombs."
"There's concern that these sources are widely spread and easily accessible," said Andrew Bieniawski, of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and a former top official in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. "They're used in everything from oil wells to the medical industry. You have thousands of these sources around the world, and people don't realize they're a threat."
Tom Bielefeld, a German physicist and nuclear security analyst, said the missing cesium likely came from an industrial source and was too weak to be used as part of an explosive device, but removal from its container could sicken people nearby.
There were about 140 reported cases of missing or unauthorized use of nuclear and radioactive material in 2013, The International Atomic Energy Agency said.
"I don't think we have a full accounting of everything worldwide. Dentists don't have armed guards patrolling their X-ray machines, and if a dentist's office gets raided it may not even make the news," said Rand Corp. defense analyst Bruce Bennett.