List of orphan source incidents


This is a chronological list of orphan source incidents and accidents.

20th century


  • January 11, 1963 – Sanlian, China – A 10-curie cobalt-60 source from an industrial seed irradiator was removed from a buried waste repository and taken to a residence by a child. Over the next 5-9 days, six total family members were exposed. Two died and four were injured.[2]
  • May 3, 1968 – La Plata, Argentina – A construction worker at a chemical plant discovered a caesium-137 source and carried it in his pants pocket for 17 hours (right pocket for 7 hours, left pocket for 10 hours). The worker suffered a localized dose of 50-1700 rads, leading to permanent sterility and the eventual amputation of both legs. 17 workers were exposed to an estimated dose of 40 rads.[3]
  • September 18, 1968 – F.R. Germany – An iridium-192 source was mishandled by workers, with one person placing the source in their jacket pocket. Six workers were exposed, with one receiving a 100 rad whole body dose and 4,000-6,000 localized dose to their pelvic and thigh regions. [4]


  • 1971 – Chiba, Japan – a 5.26-curie iridium-192 source used for industrial radiography was lost. Six construction workers received doses of 15 – 130 rem.[5]
  • January 8, 1977 – Sasolburg, Transvaal, South Africa – a 6.7-curie iridium-192 source fell out of its container at a construction site. The radiographer did not notice the loss of the source and left the site. A construction supervisor later picked up the source and placed it in his shirt pocket. He travelled home and placed the source in a cupboard. The source was recognized as lost two days later and after workers were shown a replica it was recovered the same day. The supervisor received a whole body dose of 116 rad. His wife and child received doses of 17 rad and 10 rad respectively.[6]
  • May 5, 1978 – Setif, Algeria – A 25-curie iridium-192 source fell off a truck during transport. Two children found it and kept it for several days before giving it to their grandmother, whom kept it in the kitchen of her home. After 38 days radiation exposure was identified by medical personnel. The grandmother died of radiation injuries, and six members of her family received varying radiation injuries.[7]
  • June 5, 1979 – Los Angeles, California, United States – A 28-curie iridium-192 source was lost on a job site. A worker picked it up and carried it in his pocket for 45 minutes before giving it to a manager. The worker received a 68 rem whole body dose and a 1.5megarem surface dose (60,000 rem at 1-cm depth) to his buttocks.[8]


  • October 5, 1982 – Baku, Azerbaijan – An individual carried a caesium-137 source in their pocket, exposing several individuals. Five people died and 13 other were exposed, including one person who suffered ARS.[9]
  • 1982 – Vikhroli, Mumbai, India – An iridium-192 source was lost during transport. A railway worker who found the source suffered significant exposure.[10]
  • December 6, 1983 – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.[11] A local resident salvaged materials from a discarded radiation therapy machine containing 6,010 pellets of cobalt-60 (60Co). The transport of the material led to severe contamination of his truck. When the truck was scrapped, it in turn contaminated another 5,000 metric tonnes of steel to an estimated 300 Ci (11 TBq) of activity. This steel was used to manufacture kitchen and restaurant table legs and rebar, some of which was shipped to the U.S. and Canada. The incident was discovered months later when a truck delivering contaminated building materials to the Los Alamos National Laboratory drove through a radiation monitoring station. Contamination was later measured on roads used to transport the original damaged radiation source. Some pellets were actually found embedded in the roadway. In the state of Sinaloa, 109 houses were condemned due to use of contaminated building material. This incident prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Customs Service to install radiation detection equipment at all major border crossings.[12] [13]
  • March 19, 1984 – Casablanca, Morocco – A 16.3-curie iridium-192 source was lost and taken home by a laborer, whom placed the source on a table in the family bedroom. The source remained in the house for several weeks. Eight people died and three were injured.[14]
  • September 13, 1987 – In the Goiânia accident, scavengers broke open a radiation-therapy machine in an abandoned clinic in Goiânia, Brazil. They sold the kilocurie (40 TBq) caesium-137 source as a glowing curiosity. Two hundred and fifty people were contaminated; four died.[15] [16]


  • 1990 – Sasolburg, Tranvaal, South Africa – A cobalt-60 (60Co) source was left behind following radiography work. Six people handled the source for approximately 5 – 20 minutes.[17]
  • November 19, 1992 – A 10 Ci (370 GBq) 60Co source (which were used for an agricultural project) was taken home by a worker from a well within a construction site which used to be part of an environmental monitoring station in Xinzhou, Shanxi, China. This resulted in three deaths and affected 100+ people. A woman was exposed to radiation while nursing her sick husband. Her dose was estimated to be 2.3 Gy by means of a blood test 41 days after the accident, 16 years after the accident the woman has been subject to premature aging which may be a result of her radiation exposure. Her then unborn child (induced at 37 weeks, birth weight 2 kilograms) got a dose of almost 2 Gy in utero, at the age of 16 the child had an IQ of 46, and her second baby died because of an incident six months into pregnancy eight years after the event.[18][19][20][21][22] [23]
  • 1995 – France – A worker disassembled a density gauge at a textile treatment plant and handled a 0.2-curie cesium-137 source for 30-45 minutes. [24]
  • January 5, 1996 – Jilin, Xinzhou, China – A worker found a 2.765 TBq iridium-192 source on the ground. He held it in his hand for 15 minutes before putting the source in his pants pocket. The man received a 290 rad whole body dose as well as large localized doses to the left hand, left wrist, and right thigh. [25]
  • June 1996–October 9, 1997 – Lilo, Tbilsi, Georgia [26]
  • July 24, 1996 – Gilan, Iran – A radiographer using a 5-curie irdium-192 source to check boiler welds at a power plant had the source become detached from the device cable. The source fell into a trench where it was found by a worker who put it into their chest pocket. The worker carried around the source, at times removing it from their pocket and examining it. After approximately 90 minutes he began to experience nausea, dizziness and a burning sensation in his chest; he then returned the source to the trench and left it where he found it. The source was recovered by operators, unaware it had been handled in the intervening period. The worker received a whole body dose of 450 rem. [27]
  • December 2, 1997 – Volgograd, Russia – An accidental exposure to an iridium-192 source caused 1 injury. [28]
  • 1997 – Georgia – A medical teletherapy cobalt-60 source was left unsecured near a station, causing a fatal radiation exposure to one individual. [29]
  • December 1998 – Istanbul, Turkey – two sealed transport packages for spent 60Co teletherapy sources from a shipment of three planned for export in 1993 were instead stored in a warehouse in Ankara, then moved to Istanbul, where a new owner sold them off as scrap metal. The buyers dismantled the containers, exposing themselves and others to ionizing radiation. Eighteen people, including seven children, were admitted to hospital. Ten of the adults developed acute radiation syndrome. One exposed 60Co source was retrieved, but the source from the other package was still unaccounted for one year later. It is believed that the second container was empty all along, but this could not be conclusively proven from company records.[30] [31]
  • February 20, 1999 – Yanango, Peru [32]
  • April 26–28, 1999 – Henan, China [33]
  • September 13, 1999 – Grozny, Chechnya, Russia – Six individuals attempted to steal radioactive material from a chemical factory in Grozny. They opened a container and removed several 12-cm rods of cobalt-60, each one 27,000 curies. One of the thieves handled one of the rods for several minutes and reportedly died after 30 minutes. Of the remaining thieves, two died and three received radiation injuries. [34]
  • 1999 – Kingisepp, Leningrad Oblast, Russia – The radioisotope core of a radio thermal generator was recovered at a bus station in Kingisepp. Radiation levels at the surface of the source were 1000 rad/hour. The source had been stolen from a lighthouse 50 km away by three men stealing metal to sell as scrap; all three died of radiation injury. [35]

21st Century


  • February 1, 2000 – Samut Prakan radiation accident: The radiation source of an expired teletherapy unit was purchased and transferred without registration, and stored in an unguarded car park in Samut Prakan, Thailand without warning signs.[36][37] It was then stolen from the car park and dismantled in a junkyard for scrap metal. Workers completely removed the cobalt-60 (60Co) source from the lead shielding, and became ill shortly thereafter. The radioactive nature of the metal and the resulting contamination was not discovered until 18 days later. Seven injuries and three deaths were a result of this incident.[38]
  • May – July 2000 – Meet-Halfa village in Qalyubia, Egypt, where a farmer took a source of iridium-192 home. Two household members died; 5 were injured with skin, bone marrow, and/or muscle damage. An additional 76 others were treated for changes to their blood.[39][40]
  • August 16, 2000 – Samara Oblast, Russia – A 240-curie iridium-192 source became detached from its shield assembly while being used by three radiographers to check welds in a gas pipeline. The unshielded source was packed into the workers' vehicle, in which they also slept that night. The next morning all three workers experienced nausea and vomiting. After returning to their base, the loose source was not discovered for eight days. When discovered, one of the radiographers picked up the source with his bare hand to return it to its container, receiving a localized dose of 3000–7000 rads to his hand. All three suffered whole body doses of 10–300 rads from sleeping in the vehicle containing the unshielded source.[41]
  • December 2, 2001 – Lia radiological accident: In the village of Lia, Georgia three lumberjacks discovered two 90Sr cores from Soviet radioisotope thermoelectric generators. These were of the Beta-M type, built in the 80s, with an activity of 1295 TBq each. The lumberjacks were scavenging the forest for firewood, when they came across two metal cylinders melting snow within a one meter radius laying in the road. They picked up these objects to use as personal heaters, sleeping with their backs to them. All lumberjacks sought medical attention individually, and were treated for radiation injuries. One patient, DN-1, was seriously injured and required multiple skin grafts. After 893 days in the hospital, he was declared dead after sepsis caused by complications and infections of a radiation ulcer on the subject's back. [42] The disposal team consisted of 24 men who were restricted to a maximum of 40 seconds worth of exposure (max. 20mSv) each while transferring the canisters to lead-lined drums.[43][44]
  • November 12-13, 2003 – Kola Harbor, Polyarny, Russia – Inspectors discovered scrap metal thieves had disassembled the radio-thermal generators at two separate lighthouses around Kola Bay. The 5-kg 35,000 curie strontium-90 sources were found, removed from their shielding, nearby. With their depleted uranium shielding removed, the dose rate for a single source was 800-1000 Roentgens/hour at a distance of 2-5 cm. The perpetrators likely sustained radiation injuries or even fatal doses; but authorities were unsuccessful in locating the perpetrators.[45]
  • March 23, 2008 – Rades, Tunisia – A worker carried an unshielded iridium-192 source by hand for an unspecified period. The worker sustained a 200 rem whole body dose.[46]
  • April, 2009 – Ecuador – A construction worker picked up a loose 16 Ci radiography source and carried it next to his left leg for an unspecified period, causing significant localized exposure.[47]


  • April 2010 – INES level 4 – A 35-year-old man was hospitalized in New Delhi after handling radioactive scrap metal. Investigation led to the discovery of an amount of scrap metal containing 60Co in Delhi's industrial district of Mayapuri. The 35-year-old man later died from his injuries, while six others remained hospitalized.[48][49] The radioactivity was from a gammacell 220 research source which was incorrectly disposed of by sale as scrap metal.[50] The gammacell 220 was originally made by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited whose gamma irradation work is now under the name of Nordion. Nordion do not offer servicing for gammacell 220 machines but can arrange for, in theory, safe disposal of unwanted units.[51] A year later, Delhi Police charged six DU professors from the Chemistry Department for negligent disposal of the radioactive device.[52] [53]
  • June 3, 2010 – Turmero, Aragua, Venezuela – An unshielded iridium-192 source was handled by several workers, one of whom received a significant enough exposure to necessitate transport to France for medical treatment.[54]
  • July 2010 – During a routine inspection at the Port of Genoa, on Italy's northwest coast, a cargo container from Saudi Arabia containing nearly 23,000 kg of scrap copper was detected to be emitting gamma radiation at a rate of around 500 mSv/h. After quarantining the container for over a year in quarantine on Port grounds, Italian officials dissected it using robots and discovered a rod of 60Co 23 cm long and 0.8 cm in diameter intermingled with the scrap. Officials suspected its provenance to be inappropriately disposed-of medical or food-processing equipment. The rod was sent to Germany for further analysis, after which it was likely to be recycled.[55]
  • December 2013 – A truck transporting a 111 TBq 60Co teletherapy source from a Tijuana hospital to a waste storage facility was hijacked near Mexico City[56] This triggered a nationwide search by Mexican authorities. The truck was found a day later near Hueypoxtla, where it was discovered that the source had been removed from its shielding. The source was found shortly after in a nearby field, where it was safely recovered.[57] The thieves could have received a fatal dose of radiation.[57][58]

See also


  1. ^ Johnston, William Robert. "Mexico City orphaned source, 1962". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  2. ^ Johnston, William Robert. "Sanlian orphaned source, 1963".
  3. ^ "La Plata orphaned source, 1968". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  4. ^ "F. R. Germany orphaned source accident, 1968". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  5. ^ "Chiba orphaned source, 1971". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Sasolburg orphaned source, 1977". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Setif orphaned source, 1978". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Los Angeles orphaned source, 1979". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  9. ^ "Baku orphaned source, 1982". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  10. ^ "Vikhroli lost source, 1982". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  11. ^ Sandra Blakeslee (1984-05-01). "Nuclear Spill At Juarez Looms As One of Worst". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-02-08. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  12. ^ "El Cobalto". Window on State Government. Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. July 1998. Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2005-11-27.
  13. ^ "Ciudad Juarez orphaned source dispersal, 1983". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Casablanca orphaned source, 1984". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  15. ^ Llumá, Diego (May–June 2000). "Former Soviet Union: What the Russians left behind". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 56 (3): 14–17. doi:10.2968/056003005.
    Lluma, Diego (May–June 2000). "Former Soviet Union: What the Russians Left Behind". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 56 (3): 14–17. doi:10.2968/056003005. Archived from the original on 2002-11-12.
  16. ^ "Goiania orphaned source dispersal, 1987". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  17. ^ "Sasolburg orphaned source, 1990". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  18. ^ Wm. Robert Johnston (26 October 2008). "Jilin orphaned source, 1992". Johnston's Archive. Archived from the original on 20 April 2014. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  19. ^ Zhang, Zhao-hui; Liang, Li; Zhang, Shu-lan; Jia, Ting-zhen; Liu, Qing-jie; Ma, Li-wen; Su, Xu; Liu, Ying; Chen, Sen; Qing, Bin; Cao, Bao-Shan; Xiao, Yu; Ying, Wen-chen; Zhang, Yu; Wang, Wen-xue; Wang, Zuo-yuan (2011). "Follow-up study of a pregnant woman 16 years after exposure in the Xinzhou radiation accident". Journal of Radiological Protection. 31 (4): 489–494. doi:10.1088/0952-4746/31/4/N01. ISSN 0952-4746. PMID 22089365.
  20. ^ Liang, Li; Zhang, Zhao-hui; Chen, Sen; Ma, Li-wen; Chen, Ya-mai; Zhang, Shu-luan; Jia, Ting-zhen; Liu, Ying; Liu, Qing-jie; Su, Xu; Qin, Bin; Wang, Zuo-yuan (2011). "Clinical observation of a 16-year-old female exposed to radiationin utero: follow-up after the Shanxi Xinzhou radiation accident". Journal of Radiological Protection. 31 (4): 495–498. doi:10.1088/0952-4746/31/4/N02. ISSN 0952-4746. PMID 22089422.
  21. ^ Cui Zheng (April 6, 2011). "In Shanxi, lasting pain". chinadialogue. Archived from the original on September 4, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  22. ^ 崔筝 (March 28, 2011). "辐射摧残忻州少女 放射源事故堪比核泄露". Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  23. ^ "Jilin orphaned source, 1992". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  24. ^ "France orphaned source, 1995". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Jilin lost source accident, 1996". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  26. ^ "Lilo orphaned sources, 1996-1997". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Gilan orphaned source, 1996". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  28. ^ "Volgograd source accident, 1997". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  29. ^ "Georgia orphaned source, 1997". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  30. ^ The radiological accident in Istanbul (PDF) (Report). Vienna: IAEA. 2000. ISBN 92-0-101400-7. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-07-28. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  31. ^ "Istanbul orphaned sources, 1998-1999". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  32. ^ "Yanango orphaned source, 1999". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  33. ^ "Henan orphaned source, 1999". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  34. ^ "Gronzy orphaned source, 1999". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  35. ^ "Kingisepp orphaned source, 1999". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  36. ^ [1] Bangkok Post, 2009[dead link]
  37. ^ "Samut Prakarn orphaned source, 2000". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  38. ^ The Radiological Accident at Samut Prakarn (PDF) (Report). IAEA. 2002. ISBN 92-0-110902-4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-07-27. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  39. ^ "Meet Halfa orphaned source, 2000". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  40. ^ Shabon, M.H. (2013). "Heath Effects Sequence of Meet Halfa Radiological Accident After Twelve Years" (PDF). Proceedings of the Eleventh Radiation Physics and Protection Conference. Egypt: IAEA. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  41. ^ "Samara lost source, 2000". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  42. ^ The radiological accident in Lia, Georgia (PDF) (Report). IAEA. 2014. ISBN 978-92-0-103614-8. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  43. ^ The radiological accident in Lia, Georgia. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. 2014. ISBN 92-0-103614-0. OCLC 900016880.
  44. ^ The radiological accident in Lia, Georgia. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. 2014. ISBN 92-0-103614-0. OCLC 900016880.
  45. ^ "Kola Harbor orphaned sources, 2003". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  46. ^ "Rades orphaned source, 2008". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  47. ^ "Ecuador orphaned source, 2009". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  48. ^ Yardley, Jim (27 April 2010). "Indian Man Dies After Radiation Exposure". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  49. ^ Yardley, Jim (23 April 2010). "Scrap Metal Radiation Raises Concerns in India". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  50. ^ "Origin of Cobalt-60 traced to Delhi University – Times of India". Archived from the original on 4 February 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  51. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2014-01-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  52. ^ "Six DU professors charged in Mayapuri radiation case". Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  53. ^ "Mayapuri orphaned source, 2010". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  54. ^ "Turmero orphaned source, 2010". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  55. ^ Curry, Andrew (2011-10-21). "Why Is This Cargo Container Emitting So Much Radiation?". Wired. 19 (11). Archived from the original on 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  56. ^ "Mexico Informs IAEA of Theft of Dangerous Radioactive Source". IAEA. 2013-12-03. Archived from the original on 2015-01-31. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  57. ^ a b "Mexico Says Stolen Radioactive Source Found in Field". IAEA. 2013-12-05. Archived from the original on 2015-01-31. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  58. ^ Will Grant (2013-12-05). "BBC News – Mexico radioactive material found, thieves' lives 'in danger'". BBC. Archived from the original on 2013-12-05. Retrieved 2013-12-05.

External links