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So exactly how much Polonium-210 radiological contamination is there, following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko ?

Surely it is now time for the UK Government to publish some quantitative estimates of the actual amount of Polonium 210 radionucleide involved in the Alexander Litvinenko murder ?

How many bequerels, (or curies), sieverts, grays or any other actual measures of radioactivity are involved ?

It is understandable that in the early hours and days after the incident was discovered, that such figures were not yet available, but what is the excuse for not doing so now, after the funeral of Alexander Litvinenko ?

Surely an upper limit of the actual amount of Polonium-210 involved can be estimated by now, over a month after the authorities got involved in the case ?

Is Polonium-210 the only radionucleide involved, apart from its transformation products ?

The Government have published information for health professionals about the Polonium-210 radiological incident and they have even granted themselves a legal exemption via Statutory Instrument 2006 No. 3169, The Radioactive Substances (Emergency Exemption) (England and Wales) Order 2006, specifically mentioning Alexander Litvinenko:

Exemption from authorisation
2. —(1) Radioactive waste relating to the death of Alexander Litvinenko is excluded from the provisions of sections 13 and 14 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

(2) All other provisions of that Act apply to any person who disposes of or accumulates radioactive waste covered by this Order as they apply to persons holding an authorisation under those sections.

The UK Government have not damped down the "dirty bomb" and radioactive panic and speculation in the mainstream media, by giving out any actual figures. Surely the public should be trusted to make their own risk assessments of the potential danger posed by the incident, based on the facts ?

It is not good enough for the Health Protection Agency press releases to claim that the risk is low, which it probably is, on the one hand, whilst an ever widening circle of people, physical locations, aeroplanes etc. are checked for radioactivity by people wearing Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective suits (with echoes of the botched Forest Gate anti-terrorist raid), and tens of thousands of people have been urged to contact the medical authorities.

Is this all simply precautionary principle political and bureaucratic backside covering, or is there still a real threat to public health ?

Is this part of the ongoing NuLabour "Climate of Fear" propaganda, to help force through even more repressive anti-terrorism legislation, or is there also an element of astroturfski foreign plots and disinformation ?


The Alexander Litvinenko problem that is taking up so much media space is one that most experts brought in to eleborate on the unfolding story, seem to have missed the most impostant point:

One, here we have four ex-KGB officers, one traitor to his country, who was also involved with the Russian mafia, one Italian go-between, various visitors to clandestine meetings in hotels in Russia, UK and Germany, all contaminated with Polonium 210.

Now it seems to me that the real story is: three men steal a small supply of Polonium 210. Attempting to offer a much bigger amount of Polonium 210 to (perhaps North Korea?) and showing the small sample to prove they can get more, these bungling fools spill the deadly poison over themselevs in a hotel room. They then rush about contaminating all and sundry. One dies, two are in hospital and several dozen are contaminated.

It's a cock-up of unbelieveable proportions. So lets not have any sympathy about a man who claims to have been poisoned by Russia. They all got what they deserved.

@ David - your theory seems rather unlikely

Now it seems to me that the real story is: three men steal a small supply of Polonium 210.

Approximately how much Polonium-210, and from where did they steal it from, bearing in mind the half life of 138 days?

Do you have any evidence that it was stolen from anywhere ?

Attempting to offer a much bigger amount of Polonium 210 to (perhaps North Korea?)

How much is this alleged larger quantity ?

Why would North Korea bother, when they already have all the radioactive poisons they need, and the technology to produce more i.e. several nuclear reactors ?

and showing the small sample to prove they can get more, these bungling fools spill the deadly poison over themselevs in a hotel room.

Accidentally spilling it, in powder form or as a soluble compound, and then eating or drinking it or smearing it into an open wound ?

Only contaminating themselves, and not their mythical North Korean customers ?

The alpha radiation from Polonium-210 is stopped by human skin, and by any glass, plastic or even paper container, and the very low intensity gamma rays. it gives off are not harmful either.

It's a cock-up of unbelieveable proportions.

We do not believe it.

So lets not have any sympathy about a man who claims to have been poisoned by Russia. They all got what they deserved.

You seem to have little sympathy for the death of a British citizen murdered in London.

Even if your particular conspiracy theory were true, that still does not answer the question of approximately how much Polonium-210 is involved, and therefore what the real level of risk to the public is now.

Not only a measure of the radiation but also a measure of the decomposition products and their ratio, in order to nail whether or not the substance is, indeed, Polonium. As yet, there is no evidence - other than 'some bloke from the UK gov, says so' - that there is any Polonium involved. The hapless medics originally thought (induced/inducted ?) that the poison was Thallium.

Polonium was said to present no harm to the general public since it is an alpha emmitter. Keep the requisite tiny amount in an airtight container and it presents no risk of contamination; yet, radioactive substances have been found scattered around Europa? What gives? Was it really Polonium? Or some other substance? The story, thus far, does not stack up.

@ anon - Polonium-210 is so powerful an alpha radiation source, that it spalls - effectively some of it evaporates or sublimes, but not in the normal way due to heat or vacuum.

The fast moving Helium nuclei stripped of their electrons, which is what alpha particles are, are numerous enough to knock individual, as yet intact Polonium atoms away from the surface, so if you do have an open container of it, there will be traces of Polonium fizzing away silently from the original sample.

Obviously it will spall far more if the Polonium is in pure elemental form, than if is in a soluble compound dispersed in a liquid.

If anyone has ingested some Polonium, then traces of it will be excreted through sweat etc., so again, anywhere a victim has been sitting for a while will have traces.

How big these traces are, and exactly what health risk they pose, are the questions which remains unanswered in quantitative terms, by the Government's silence on the matter.

The Governent and the media seem to be intent on blurring the difference betweer "minutely detectable traces" and "sufficient contamination to cause a health risk".

There simply cannot be a more than, say a gram of the stuff in total, as such a concentration would rapidly heat up to several hundred degrees Celsius - Polonium has been used in thermoelectric batteries to power spy satellites.

The idea that this amount of Polonium or any other radioactive substance could be used to contaminate a large area of London in a "dirty bomb" explosion, defies the laws of physics - several kilograms would be needed, in a powdered or aerosol form.

See Dhiren Barot's impractical alleged Americum-241 smoke detector plot.

"so if you do have an open container of it" - that is why I said, "Keep the requisite tiny amount in an airtight container and it presents no risk of contamination"

spalls you hint that this process is speciation specific. I suspect that this process is totally speciation specific with spalling being peculiar to the elemental form. Can you give any clarification and/or details?

@ anon - you are probably right about elemental Polonium, but conceivably a very fine powder, with an inevitable oxide layer, might also be concentrated enough to do this.

See the Wikipedia article on Polonium-210 for references

210Po (in common with 238Pu) has the ability to become airborne with ease: if a sample is heated in air to 328 K (55°C, 131°F), 50% of it is vaporized in 45 hours, even though the melting point of polonium is 527 K (254°C, 489°F) and its boiling point is 1235 K (962°C, 1763°F).[16] More than one hypothesis exists for how polonium does this; one suggestion is that small clusters of polonium atoms are spalled off by the alpha decay.

It really does depend on how much Polonium-210 there was in the first place, as to whether this poses a health risk or not.

There are so many possible scenarios, that until the Government releases some actual quantitative data, it is probably idle to speculate.

There are claims that the cup of tea served in the bar in the hotel managed to "contaminate" 7 hotel workers with traces of Polonium, allegedly via the dishwater washing up process.

Is this external traces on their clothing, or have they ingested small amounts, through licking their fingers, or breathing in some dust ?

If there was some water soluble compound put in the tea cup, what about splashes etc, which eventually dry by evaporation, leaving a more concentrated solid Polonium compound deposit or stain ?

Assassin Theory or Nuclear smuggling theory? Both theories are plausible since there is circumstantial evidence to both. The nuclear smuggling theory relies on a leaked container in possession by Litvinenko, all parties aware, and a coverup by all parties. The theory is that Lugovoi brings it in from Russia, Litvinenko pays Lugovoi through Berezovsky. Litvinenko attempts to sell it to Scarmela. How did things go wrong? When the shipment was tested by Litvinenko the container had to be opened, thus the leak.
The assassin theory is a less collaborative conspiracy but nonetheless an exotic one. The Polonium is chosen as a poison to provide the greatest exposure (i.e shotgun effect) without any noticeable detection for who the assassin might be. The most likely scenario is that the assassin sprays an aerosol of Polonium-210 towards his victim or his victims food on a walkby or within the victims immediate vicinity. Scary Mella could either be the assassin or one of the intended victims. He of all suspects has the shadiest past to which trouble would follow. The other Russians would then have only been exposed through contact with Litvenko or a second spraying at the hotel.

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