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Topic: Polonium-210 on Litvinenko  (Read 377 times)

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Offline Space_Passenger

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Polonium-210 on Litvinenko
« on: December 15, 2020, 05:27:44 AM »
Hello everybody. I have this question for some time now. Why they used Po-210 for poisoning Litvinenko in 2006?

What i mean is (without being an expert) Po-210 is an -a emitter, and its very rare. Why not use for example U-238 its also an -a emitter and is much more accessible. Its like Russians admit they "did it". Only few countries can have Po-210 in considerable amounts. Russia is the only suspect. U-238 on the other hand is easier to find. And would do the same "job" when you drink it with tea. Also Po-210 is detectable with (2006) technology. Any thoughts? Thanks.  :)

Offline Borek

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Re: Polonium-210 on Litvinenko
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2020, 05:43:58 AM »
Compare masses of samples required to get the same level of α activity.
ChemBuddy chemical calculators - stoichiometry, pH, concentration, buffer preparation, titrations.info, pH-meter.info

Offline Space_Passenger

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Re: Polonium-210 on Litvinenko
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2020, 05:59:19 AM »
Ok i understand. But why an -a emitter? Why not a -b or -c? Why not K40 for e.g. Its much more active. Why Po-210 an ideal element? There are other more dangerous.

Offline AWK

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Re: Polonium-210 on Litvinenko
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2020, 08:10:37 AM »
K-40 ? Check its half-life.
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Offline Babcock_Hall

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Re: Polonium-210 on Litvinenko
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2020, 11:12:47 AM »
Alpha particles do not penetrate well, but internally they are quite damaging.  Kelly Elkins discusses this case on p. 273 of Introduction to Forensic Chemistry and notes that Polonium is more easily smuggled and that it emits such a small amount of gamma radiation that Geiger counters may fail to detect it.

Offline Arkcon

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Re: Polonium-210 on Litvinenko
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2020, 01:27:42 AM »
Please remember, polonium isn't a GIANT nuclear facility red flag -- a tiny amount is sputtered onto gold foil, and is in the back of many laboratory balances, the alpha emission functions to mitigate static charge.

I knew something radioactive was there, but I didn't know the choice was polonium.  When I'd heard it, and people also mentioned Litvienko's poisoning, I said, "How about that.  Marie Curie finally got one."

Heh. ;D

For those of you not up on chemistry trivia, Marie Curie, physicist for France, was Maria Skłodowska, and she named the element she discovered Polonium for her homeland Poland, at that time under domination by Tsarist Russia.   A real pre-WWI scandal, politicizing the periodic table, like that.  ::)

In fact some people, likely Putin apologists, point out that anyone could have scraped off a bunch of static blockers, and fed his tea -- rival spy agencies, disgruntled oligarchs, random serial killer -- or, you know, the obvious likely culprit.

Whenever I see a laboratory balance, missing its foil in the holder, I like to ask, "who paid you to take out whom?"  Currently, one is half corroded -- I don't even know how to explain that, unless its not gold foil for some reason.
Hey, I'm not judging.  I just like to shoot straight.  I'm a man of science.

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