Saturday, September 18, 2010

Goiânia Accident

I am always amazed at how little I know, and how little all of us know. Did you ever hear of this nuclear accident?
The Goiânia accident was a radioactive contamination accident that occurred on 13 September 1987, at Goiânia, Brazil. Considered one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, it took place after an old nuclear medicine source was scavenged from an abandoned hospital site in the city, which serves as capital of the central Brazilian state of Goiás. It was subsequently handled by many people, resulting in four deaths and serious radioactive contamination of 249 other people. The dispersal of radiation was equivalent to a medium-size dirty bomb. About 130,000 people overwhelmed hospitals. Of those, 250 people, some with radioactive residue still on their skin, were found to be contaminated through the use of Geiger counters. Topsoil had to be removed from several sites, and several houses were demolished. All the objects from within those houses were removed and examined. Those that were found to be free of radioactivity were wrapped in plastic bags, while those that were contaminated were either decontaminated or disposed of as waste.


Chris_Winter said...

I learned of Goiania years ago. It was part of the reason I compiled a database of radiation accidents. There have been similar cases: One in Thailand in early 2000.

Perhaps the greatest number of such exposures occurred in former USSR countries, where military sources were scattered about and RTGs were stolen from lighthouses along the Arctic Ocean by scrap-metal thieves.

Others were in Mexico (1962, 1983) and even in Houston (1996).

The 1983 Mexico incident was unknown for months, and was only discovered when a truck carried metal parts made from scrap containing traces of the radioisotope made a delivery to Los Alamos and triggered its detectors.

You'll find this archive useful too.

EliRabett said...

Yes. disposal of old Co60 sources has been an ongoing scandal