Archive for the ‘Po 210’ Category

Po 210

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Nuclear Weapons, Po 210, Suitcase Nukes, Terrorism 101

Po-210 is a terrible choice for a poison. Extremely toxic, radioactive, and is extremely difficult to handle. It emits alpha particles and becomes lead. It has a half life of 138.4 days. This means half of the original amount of Po-210 turns into lead every 138 days. It has a short shelf life, which limits it industrial usefulness.

Po-210’s main military application is a neutron source, a polonium-beryllium “nuclear trigger.” This type of nuclear trigger was used in all early nuclear weapons, and is probably used in the missing Soviet suitcase nukes. If the Po-210 has turned into lead, the suitcase nukes will not work. It has been reported al-Qaeda is offering $3 million dollars for a gram of Po210.

Speculation: a courier was transporting Po-210, packaged in small foil packages about the size of the little red or blue sweetener packages, and one or more of the packages leaked. The fine powder would be tracked by the courier’s feet, and spread by contact with his clothes. This explains the multiple contaminated sites. Po-210 is only a threat if ingested or inhaled. Litvinenko could have touched a contaminated surface and then contaminated his food. Once inside the body, it only takes a microscopic particle to kill.

Polonium-beryllium neutron sources is accurately described in The Rings of Allan. More information can be found on