[ RadSafe ] Georgian Heat Source Exposure Question

Weaver, Ellsworth III JEW1 at PGE.COM
Mon Jul 6 18:20:52 CDT 2009

2001   (Dec - Feb 2002) Liya, Tsalenjikha district, Republic of Georgia
(former USSR) Three men found two radiothermal generators in the woods
27 km from Liya, western Georgia. They removed the shielding, apparently
to recover the material as scrap metal. In early December 2001 they
removed both strontium-90 sources, each one 35,000 curies, and took them
back to their campsite where they used them as heat sources. All three
became sick from radiation exposure within hours. After they sought
medical treatment, Georgian authorities contacted the IAEA on 24
December for assistance in securing the sources. A team attempted to
reach the sources in January 2002 but was unable to due to heavy snow
and rugged terrain. A team successfully reached the sources on 4
February 2002 after which they were secured. Subsequently investigators
concluded that the men had been using and selling lead from the RTG
shields for a period of months; 20 kg of contaminated lead was recovered
in a Liya house. One report claims the men were offered $10,000 to
transport the sources to Turkey. 

---J. Ellsworth Weaver

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