Search in Republic of Georgia for Recovery of Radioactive SourcesSummary of June 2002 news clip produced by Vadim Mouchkin and Petr Pavlicek,
IAEA Division of Public Information
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Georgian emergency response and rescue team are basically police officers. They have been assembled in preparation for a hunt for radioactive sources believed to be missing in Georgia. The task is not completely new to them.
In February 2002, these emergency workers participated in the actual recovery of two radioactive sources found abandoned in a forest.
In June the International Atomic Energy Agency with experts from four countries supported the Georgian survey operation designed to track down other so-called orphan radiation sources. A number of IAEA Member States donated various types of sensitive radiation detectors.
On the training ground near Tbilisi, the main target was to teach emergency workers how to use this equipment in the mountains. For training, the teams were to find and recover a hidden, although a weak radiation source, placed in a protective container.
The search operation itself took the team along a long road from Tbilisi into western Georgia, some six hundred kilometers away from the capital, to a picturesque but rough environment. The last leg of the journey was through the Inguri gorge, which is an environment with risky roads and snow peaks of up to 5000 metres. The search territory covered about 550 square kilometers. It is believed that the basin of the Inguri river once was home to a communication system, with radioactive sources powering a communication network of the Inguri hydropower station. In the chaos that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the radioactive sources were left behind or "orphaned" and have slipped beyond regulatory control.
The operation base, actually an abandoned school, is where the survey was launched. This place is home to a mix of ethnic groups, close to a zone of conflict, where a Kalashnikov automatic rifle is a necessary security attribute.
During the operation, IAEA staff and international experts followed survey routes together with Georgian radiation specialists. A powerful radiation scanner capable of detecting a radiation source at a distance of one kilometer was mounted on a vehicle. In places accessible on foot only, the search continued with a hand-held device. At the start of the operation, it was believed that two other powerful radiation sources were yet to be found. But even if the teams are not successful in finding other radioactive sources, the operation would be far from a failure - on the contrary, it would be a confirmation that no radiation hazards exist in the surveyed areas.