Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Liya orphaned sources, 2001-2002

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 23 November 2005

Date: early December 2001-February 2002

Location: Liya, Tsalenjikha district, Republic of Georgia

Type of event: orphaned radiothermal generators


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.

Consequences: 3 injuries.


© 2004, 2005 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 23 November 2005.
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