Radioactive Cobalt Rescued From Lebanese Lab

Photo courtesy DMKTirpitz, Wikimedia Commons

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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.
 

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

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