Orphaned Sources

Georgia / Netherlands, 2003, 16 min
Directors: Janita Top & Marij Kloosterhof
Contact: Stichting Falkor, info@falkor.org

In June 2003 police in Tiblisi, Georgia (South Caucasus) seized a taxi which was transporting radioactive sources Caesium and Strontium. The owner of the vehicle said, he knew nothing about the contents of the freight. Even a tiny fraction of strontium, if inhaled or ingested, can cause cancer. This is an example of the socalled orphaned sources: radioactive materials that are lying around in a former Soviet republic. They have been found in forests and rivers, and in the city. Some of these materials were left behind by the Soviet army, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some found their way to Georgia via illegal trading. In the Caucasus, places where nuclear waste is stored have not always been well regulated. Large amounts of waste have been stolen by soldiers and citizens, hoping to make money out of it. In 1997 eleven Georgian soldiers were exposed to radiation and became ill. In winter 2002, three residents of Tsalenjikha, western Georgia, suffered severe injuries due to exposure to a strontium source. The issue radioactive pollution is politically sensitive. Governments seem to be closing up about the subject and information is difficult to obtain. Moreover, since 11th of September the subject radioactive materials is also being connected to 'the war on terrorism' (Georgia is neighbor of Chechnya) and illegal trading of sources.