09TBILISI912, GEORGIA: FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS ON CS-137 DISCOVERY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI912 2009-05-14 12:00 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4513
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV
DE RUEHSI #0912 1341200
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 141200Z MAY 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1561
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0045
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEANFA/NRC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFITT/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RULSDMK/NSA US WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T TBILISI 000912 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2019 
TAGS: KNNP MNUC ASEC KCRM PARM PINR PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS ON CS-137 DISCOVERY 
 
REF: A. STATE 032944 
     B. TBILISI 0449 
     C. TBILISI 0314 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 B AND D 
 
1. (S) As requested in ref A, poloff obtained additional 
information from the Government of Georgia regarding its 
response to the discovery of four Cs-137 sources buried near 
Kopitnari Airport.  While not completely ruling out the 
possibility that the material was abandoned by smugglers, the 
government is not pursuing the case as a criminal matter. 
The road on which the sources were detected is a historic and 
modern smuggling route for many illicit activities, including 
narcotics and human trafficking.  While the Nuclear and 
Radiation Safety Service (NRSS) was not fully confident that 
the material was buried without any intention of transporting 
it in the future, it stressed that this was unlikely. 
 
2. (S) There are many other cases in Georgia of radioactive 
material discovered buried at previously unknown locations. 
This is especially true on former Soviet military bases, 
where containers would be emptied out to sell for scrap 
metal, and the radioactive sources simply buried as a means 
of disposal.  For example, in 1997 at Lilo, eleven border 
patrol guards received serious injuries from radiation 
exposure when over ten Cs-137 sources were discovered after 
the property was transferred to the Georgians.  Another 
example is at Vaziani in 1999, during transfer of the base to 
the Georgians, when a highly radioactive Cs-137 source was 
found buried under 30 cm of soil, and another fourteen 
sources of strontium found buried at a tank polygon.  There 
are also several cases of Cs-137 being discovered buried at 
formerly state-owned property during the transfer to private 
ownership.  According to NRSS, such burial of radioactive 
sources is usually linked to disposal of material and not to 
criminal intention.  The February discovery of Cs-137 near 
Kopitnari Airport is assessed by NRSS to be a similar case; a 
matter of ignorant disposal and not criminal intent. 
 
3. (S) As explained in ref B, the Georgians assess that the 
sources were buried two or three years ago, based on two 
pieces of evidence.  First, an IAEA aerial survey conducted 
in 2000 covered the area, and no traces of radioactive 
material were detected at that time.  Second, the sources 
were discovered buried next to a transformer that was 
installed about four or five years ago.  The Georgians assess 
that if the sources had been buried at the location at the 
time of the installation, the sources would have been 
disturbed.  NRSS now assesses that the sources are likely 
industrial sources, and because of the multitude of disused 
industrial sources located throughout the country, NRSS has 
little confidence that it could determine he origin. 
 
4. (S) Comment.  While they did not follow the procedure 
agreed upon in the Addendum to the Joint Document of Georgian 
and U.S. Delegations Georgia's Priority Needs to Improve Its 
Capabilities to Combat Nuclear Smuggling when responding to 
the incident, as detailed in ref A, the Georgians did 
successfully recover the radioactive sources and now seem 
Qsuccessfully recover the radioactive sources and now seem 
content to put the matter to rest.  They sources have been 
transferred to the storage facility in Mtskheta, and the 
Government is not planning to pursue the case further.  Lack 
of proper response procedures to such incidents is an ongoing 
problem in Georgia.  This will likely be a main theme during 
the Preventing Nuclear Smuggling Program (PNSP) Scenario 
Based Workshop scheduled for May 20-21 in Tbilisi, which will 
be a key event for the Georgians in learning how to improve 
these procedures.  End comment. 
TEFFT

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