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Friday, July 28, 2006

Two Radioactive Sources Found in Georgia

Georgian authorities and the International Atomic Energy Agency have recovered two potentially lethal radioactive devices in the alpine region of the former Soviet state, the U.N. nuclear watchdog announced yesterday.

The devices were secured in the first three days of an effort to find such abandoned radioactive sources in Georgia. Georgian Environment Ministry and IAEA personnel discovered a powerful source in a dirt pile in an old factory in the village of Iri. They located a smaller device in a container of nuts and bolts in a house in the village of Likhaura. A family bedroom was on the other side of a thin, wooden wall.

Both sources were cesium 137, which is used commonly in industry to find flaws in materials and for measurements, according to an IAEA release. “New, powerful, backpack-mounted instrumentation with which the search team was equipped helped reveal and locate both sources,” the release said.

Team members said absence of available records prevented them from determining the sources’ origins. The first source might have been missed when the factory shut down. The second source was probably found and taken to the house. Both radioactive sources should have been stored in shielded containers.

Roughly 300 radioactive sources have been retrieved in Georgia since the mid-1990s. At least one death and numerous injuries to the public have been attributed to exposure to the sources (International Atomic Energy Agency release, July 27).
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