RTG Accidents


1999 Leningrad
An RTG was found ravaged by metal looters. The radioactive heat source (RHS) core was found emitting radioactivity at a bus stop in the town of Kingisepp. It was recovered.

2001 Kandalashka Bay, Murmansk region
Three radioisotope sources were stolen from lighthouses located in the area. All three RHS were found and sent to Moscow.

2001 Georgia
In December 2001, three woodsmen found two heat-emanating ceramic objects near their campsite in the remote Inguri river valley of Georgia. Two of the woodsmen involved in the accident carried the containers on their backs and experienced nausea, vomiting, and dizziness within hours of exposure. The third carried the source attached to a wire. At a hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia, the woodsmen were diagnosed with radiation sickness and severe radiation burns, and at least two of the three were in serious condition. A Georgian team recovered the sources in early 2002 with the assistance of the IAEA. They were the unshielded, ceramic sources of two Soviet-era RTGs each containing about 30,000 Ci of Strontium-90. Two of the victims were treated in hospitals in Paris and Moscow for many months before recovering from severe radiation burns.

2002 West Georgia
Three shepherds from the Tsalendzhikha region were exposed to high radiation doses after they stumbled upon a number of RTGs in a nearby forest. Shortly after the accident the IAEA established that, during the Soviet time, eight such generators altogether were delivered to Georgia.

2003 Cape Pihlissar, near Kurgolovo Leningrad region
An RTG was ravaged by metal scavengers and found 200 meters from the lighthouse, sunk in the shoals of the Baltic Sea. It was removed by a team of experts.

2003 Golets Island in the White Sea
The Northern Fleet service personnel discovered the theft of metal from an RTG-powered lighthouse on the small island of Golets. The door inside the lighthouse had been forced. The lighthouse contained a particularly powerful RTG with six radioactive heat sources, which were not taken.

Ref: The Bellona Foundation. These accident reports are drawn from a more comprehensive listing of accidents involving RTGs in the former USSR, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

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