Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hunting for a Source about Hunters and Radiation

I'm trying to source the following, which I heard on the radio a few years ago:

Some years ago wandering hunters in Georgia (ex Soviet Union) discovered a barrel of warm radioactive strontium 90 (or cobalt 60) that kept them warm for several days before they succumbed to radiation sickness.

Can anyone be of assistance?


Ed said...

I found this on this site:

December 2001

XSSRs - incredibly radioactive radiothermal generators abandoned in the remote locations where they were used to power radio transmissions

On a frigid afternoon, three men gathering wood near the Inguri River in northern Georgia encountered a pair of canisters the size of paint pails. The objects, oddly hot to the touch, had melted surrounding snow. The men settled down for the night by the canisters, as though by a fire. They could not have known that their makeshift heaters were packed with strontium 90, an emitter of beta and gamma radiation.

Within hours they felt nauseated, grew dizzy and started vomiting. Soon their skin started to peel-- radiation burn. A stream of beta particles, or electrons, from the strontium had destroyed their skin, while x rays and gamma rays had blasted the underlying tissue. Their wounds festered. Back in Tbilisi, physicians faxed an urgent plea to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna for help securing the devices. "My shock was so great when I learned how radioactive these sources are," says Abel Julio Gonz‡lez, director of radiation and waste safety at the IAEA. The canisters found in Georgia were highly radioactive, on the order of 40,000 curies apiece--about 40 times the output of a radiation therapy machine.

Gonz‡lez and colleagues, who immediately realized that the canisters held the makings of a potent dirty bomb, were alarmed by what they later learned about the Soviet-era devices, which powered electrical generators in remote locales and have been largely unknown to Western nuclear authorities until recently In the generators, high-energy beta particles shed by the strontium 90 slammed into the walls of a titanium-based ceramic receptacle; some energy was shed as X rays and some as heat, warming the ceramic to around 900 degrees Fahrenheit. A transformer converted the heat to electricity.

The IAEA says it has captured all six of the strontium 90 generators that it believes were in Georgia, which the Soviets used to power radio transmissions.

But the canisters are turning up all around the old USSR. After being prodded by the IAEA, Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy gradually divulged that in Soviet times a factory in Estonia churned out at least 900 of the generators, including some models that are five times more radioactive than the units recovered in Georgia. No more than a couple dozen of the generators have been accounted for, says Gonz‡lez, adding that the IAEA's efforts to track down the missing generators are hampered by a legacy of lost records and even theft. Because the generators once also provided electricity for lighthouses along the Arctic coast, from the Baltic to the Bering Strait, Russia is working with the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority to salvage radiothermal generators in the Murmansk region and ship them to a Russian nuclear site for storage.

[Source: Richard Stone (European news editor for Science), "The Hunt for Hot Stuff", Smithsonian v33 n12, March 2003, p. 58]

hope that helps!

noel said...

Here is a journal article.

Atomic Energy, Vol. 100, No. 2, 2006 RECONSTRUCTION OF THE DOSE TO THE VICTIM AS A RESULT OF ACCIDENTAL IRRADIATION IN LIA (GEORGIA) E. V. Klass,1 V. V. Shakhovskii,1 E. D. Kleshchenko,2 O. A. Kochetkov,2 and V. I. Tsvetkov2

It references a paper that details the event but I presume it's in Russian.

Hope that helps as well