Radioactive Cobalt Rescued From Lebanese Lab

Photo courtesy DMKTirpitz, Wikimedia Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


News today that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) successfully repatriated highly radioactive sources from Lebanon to Russia whence they came.

The trouble was 36 Cobalt-60 sources with a combined radioactivity of 3,500 curies. A single source is powerful enough to kill a person within minutes of direct exposure.

The Cobalt-60 sources were part of an irradiator used for biological pest control that had been lying dormant at an unspecified agricultural institute in Lebanon since 1996, reports Nature.

The irradiator once sterilized male Mediterranean fruit flies. When the project ended all knowledgeable staff left the institute, abandoning the Cobalt-60 in shielded containers safe  from contamination—only the containers themselves were not secured in the building.

IAEA officials originally identified problems in 2006. But after the first first-fact finding mission Israel bombed the airport and the recovery project had been on hold ever since waiting for Lebanon to normalize. On 30 August the Cobalt-60 was finally flown to a secure storage facility in Russia.

Hope that’s not an oxymoron.

At any rate, the Lebanese operation is part of a wider initiative to secure radioactive materials from scientific research, medicine, and industry that might be used to make dirty bombs.
 

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate