NBC Weapons: Polonium 210 and Q




November 27, 2006: The recent death, in Britain, of KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko, via polonium 210 poisoning, was a rare use of a highly radioactive substance to assassinate someone. Polonium 210 can only be produced by a nuclear reactor, using special laboratory procedures. Russia has the nuclear facilities and labs to do it. Russia also has a history of using exotic poisons to assassinate individuals, outside the country, who are acting contrary to Russian interests.

So far, traces of radiation have been found at Litvinenkos home, two hotel rooms, a hotel bar where he met someone, before going to a restaurant where he ate on November 1st,. Police technicians are checking other locations of evidence of polonium 210 being present. Polonium 210 is only deadly if it gets inside you. In the past, the KGB has developed ingenious devices for getting exotic poisons into victims. Polonium 210 kills by emitting alpha particles, which cause damage to living tissues. So when it gets inside you, it spreads, destroying organs as it does so. A gram (there are 28.5 grams to the ounce) of polonium 210 would be enough to kill someone. If sprayed onto food or drink as a mist, it would not be noticed. A small, specially designed, container could safely hold the polonium 210, and deliver it to the substance to be ingested. While this is the sort of thing you'd only expect to see in a James Bond movie, keep in mind that the James Bond flicks are based, albeit loosely, on actual espionage operations. The CIA, MI-6 and KGB all have their "Q" characters, who develop special tools and weapons. Many of those devices are never declassified. A gadget that could carry and deliver a fatal dose of polonium 210 would certainly be one item you would never let the public get a look at.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close