Radiation Sickness Hits 10 Georgian Border Guards


In April 1997, ten Georgian border guards were hospitalized for radiation sickness after discovering 15 radioactive canisters in and around a former Soviet military base in Lilo, Georgia. According to Georgian border guards chief Valery Chkheidze, the border guards discovered ten canisters buried at a shallow depth inside the military base and five canisters outside the military base. The former Soviet military base is now a training center for Georgian border guards.

According to Chkheidze, four of the canisters, used for calibrating radiation measuring devices, contained radioactive cesium. Most of the canisters were buried no more than 15 inches deep in smoking areas, toilets, and the football field. Shukri Abramidze, a nuclear expert from the Georgian Institute of Physics physics research institute, said that a one half-inch long and quarter-inch wide canister of cesium also was discovered in the pocket of a coat in a pile of clothes. Georgian nuclear experts determined that the background level of radiation in the base was up to 1,000 times the normal level.

The unprotected canisters were reportedly left behind without any protection by the Soviet army after its withdrawal from the base in 1992. According to Chkheidze, however, former Soviet military officials made no mention of the canisters after the departing from the base. Following the discovery, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze established a commission to test for radiation contamination on the rest of the former Soviet military bases in Georgia. [see also 11 October 1997 - The Los Angeles Times, 'Suspicions Fuel Radiation Fears Across Georgia Health: Soviet Past Haunts Ex-Republic After Cesium Capsules Scattered On Base Sicken Soldiers;' by Selina Williams.]

Abstract Number:  19971120
Headline:  Radiation Sickness Hits 10 Georgian Border Guards
Date:  5 October 1997
Bibliography:  Reuters
Author:  Radiation Sickness Hits 10 Georgian Border Guards
Orig. Src.:  Suren Babayan
Material:  radioactive materials

October 5, 1997

This article is part of a collection examining reported incidents of nuclear or radioactive materials trafficking in or originating from the Newly Independent States.

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2018.