Four people were jailed Tuesday for stealing the radioactive material Cobalt 60 in Panzhihua, Southwest China's Sichuan province, Sichuan Morning News reported.
The Panzhihua people's procuratorate sentenced the four perpetrators to 11 years, 10 and a half years, 8 months and 6 months in prison respectively for stealing dangerous materials, keeping and selling the stolen items.
The Panzhihua 502 power station discovered that the 63 units of Cobalt 60 were missing during a routine check on February 22, 2002. Cobalt 60 is a highly radioactive material, with 63 units of Cobalt 60 capable of causing radiation damage comparable to that of an A-bomb.
Local police set up a special investigation team immediately upon receiving the report and caught the thieves within seven hours.
The four "innocent" thieves, former employees of the power station, mistook the Cobalt 60, which is coated in lead, for an ordinary metal and sold it to a metal recycling factory for 2.2 yuan (27 US cents) per kilogram.