Banco
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Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 8:35 am

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6180682.stm

The plot thickens with this one. The British police have apparently asked Moscow for "any information" on Litvinenko's death, which seems to me that they're basically saying "It woz you wot done it, admit it, you done it didn't you?", otherwise why ask them?

Can't see them proving it mind, but it's an extraordinary story.
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777236ER
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:12 am

It is extraordinary, thought I can't quite see any charges ever being brought.

Whatever the truth, I dont think it would have been authorised by Putin himself, or even any other senior members of the party. Polonium 210 does seem to hint at a state-backed killer (thought not necessarily state-authorised); the isotope is usually produced by bombarding bismuth 209 with neutrons in a reactor. With a halflife of 138 days, that kind of limits the potential sources.

All this talk of a 'major dose' must be taken into context. According to my old uni textbooks, the maximum allowed ingested dose of polonium is 0.03 microcurie. That's a whopping 6.8e-12 grams of the stuff! Furthermore, it's a pure alpha emitter, so all damage will be confined to the victim, and it's soluble, meaning treatment is pretty much useless.
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RichardPrice
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:20 am

Quoting 777236ER (Reply 1):
With a halflife of 138 days, that kind of limits the potential sources.

And with such a radioactive compound, they should be able to identify every specific reactor this could come from or at least eliminate specific reactors (hint - they can narrow it down to the exact reactor, since the signature of nonpure trace compounds is unique to each reactor).
 
Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:24 am

Quoting 777236ER (Reply 1):
All this talk of a 'major dose' must be taken into context

Well, yes. Though it should be apparent to anyone with half a brain that "major dose" doesn't mean six pounds of the stuff.

Quoting RichardPrice (Reply 2):
And with such a radioactive compound, they should be able to identify every specific reactor this could come from or at least eliminate specific reactors (hint - they can narrow it down to the exact reactor, since the signature of nonpure trace compounds is unique to each reactor).

Can they really do that, beyond a Hollywood film? Wouldn't they need to have samples from every reactor in the world?
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RichardPrice
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:30 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 3):
Can they really do that, beyond a Hollywood film? Wouldn't they need to have samples from every reactor in the world?

Already have em - the UN IAEA has the vast majority of samples required (and thus the major countries have them), and from there its a case of 'well, it didnt come from the UK, France, the US, Italy, Germany....'.

Also a reactor woudl have to have had a complete fuel change to change the trace signature from that on record, something that only happens once every 25 or so years, so its quite possible to identify the reactors which wer 'seeded' by a nuclear power producing country.
 
Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:38 am

Quoting RichardPrice (Reply 4):

I see. Interesting. But isn't polonium naturally occurring?
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777236ER
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:46 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 3):
Well, yes. Though it should be apparent to anyone with half a brain that "major dose" doesn't mean six pounds of the stuff.

My point is that the amount of the stuff needed to kill someone is absolutely tiny.

Quoting Banco (Reply 3):
Can they really do that, beyond a Hollywood film? Wouldn't they need to have samples from every reactor in the world?

As RichardPrice said, the IAEA will have samples that would allow the UKAEA to eliminate reactors. They can also use mass spectrometry to carry out isotopic and elemental analysis, and combined with gas chromatography, you can find trace organic compounds present. All that can narrow down the origin.

By using mass spectrometry to find the proportion of daughter elements, you can also work out exactly when the polonium was made.
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777236ER
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:53 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 5):
But isn't polonium naturally occurring?

It's found in uranium ores, but only at about 0.1mg/tonne. You'd have to refine the uranium (or refine residues of uranium processing), or refine radium salts to get it. That's not a good way of getting it, it's very very toxic. The only safe way of obtaining it without spending vast amounts is to bombard bismuth with neutrons in a reactor.

Then again, I last did chemistry in some terrible lectures years ago that I was glad to see the back of.

Interestingly, forensic chemists have quite an arsenal for working out where radioisotopes come from. Since the 60s there's been a constant albeit small stream of illegal nuclear material trafficing.

[Edited 2006-11-25 01:56:32]
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Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 10:03 am

Quoting 777236ER (Reply 7):
Then again, I last did chemistry in some terrible lectures years ago that I was glad to see the back of.

I suspect you did rather more than I did when listening to lectures on the naval wars of the nineteenth century.  Wink
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777236ER
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 10:10 am

Universities are moving towards 'problem based learning' bollocks now, which means less lectures and more 'group projects', where the kids learn by themselves. Firstly, it doesn't work - I have grads who don't know basics because they weren't forced to sit and stare at an OHP screen for 40 hours a week.

Secondly, I've sat through some bloody boring lectures in my time. Kids should be forced, Clockword Orange-style, to watch some inaudiable, under-paid, over-worked, plaid-wearing bearded bloke prattle on for hours, just like I was.
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Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Nov 25, 2006 10:17 am

Quoting 777236ER (Reply 9):
some inaudiable, under-paid, over-worked, plaid-wearing bearded bloke prattle on for hours, just like I was.

I don't think Skidmarks is qualified to lecture is he? An imposter!
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GDB
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:58 am

Away from this bizzare case, the ability to trace source reactors, for even small amounts of material, was alluded to, by President Chirac a few months ago, in a speech at the French Navies nuclear submarine base.
Warning that if say, terrorists used some kind of nuclear material in an attack on French soil, which could presumably include a dirty bomb as well as something much worse, then the source of this material would potentially be a target of the French SLBM force.

Probably a warning to any state not to even consider any aid in this respect to any non state, or state affiliated groups.
Iran must have been on his mind, the activities of Dr Khan in Pakistan too - though it is unclear if he ever have any support from any arm of the Pakistani state over the decades. Or if a hardcore Islamist regime took power there.
Why the UK govenment has failed to use this example in the arguments about retaining a nuclear force is very puzzling-whatever your opinion on this issue.

(If this sounds far fetched, Israel clandestinely smuggled substantial amounts nuclear material out of the US in the early/mid 60's, before the very pronounced pro Isreal shift of the US in the late 60's).

This case in London clearly points to at least, a state affliated assassin, with or without direct Russian government approval.
Perhaps all those worries, post USSR, about security of former Soviet nuclear installations, the enviromental impact of rusting once assetts, has come home to roost in London in the form of assassination.
Rather than the usual fears of bombs, bomb making material, or other WMD's like massive stockpile of chem/bio agents the USSR had.
 
Pyrex
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sun Nov 26, 2006 2:32 am

Quoting 777236ER (Reply 1):
the isotope is usually produced by bombarding bismuth 209 with neutrons in a reactor.

How do they transform one element into another just by bombarding it with neutrons? Don't they need a source of protons for that, or that comes from the sliced 'n diced atoms of bismuth?
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RichardPrice
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:17 am

Quoting Pyrex (Reply 12):
How do they transform one element into another just by bombarding it with neutrons? Don't they need a source of protons for that, or that comes from the sliced 'n diced atoms of bismuth?

The source of the protons is the Bismuth itself - neutron bombardment forces the element to undergo fission, breaking some atoms into parts which then recombine with others to form heavier elements.
 
777236ER
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sun Nov 26, 2006 4:01 am

Quoting Pyrex (Reply 12):
How do they transform one element into another just by bombarding it with neutrons? Don't they need a source of protons for that, or that comes from the sliced 'n diced atoms of bismuth?

Bombarding bismuth 209 with neutrons creates bismuth 210, which is the parent of polonium 210. The bismuth 210 decays into polonium 210.
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Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Thu Nov 30, 2006 5:55 am

A story that moves from the bizarre to the serious.

The shit's going to hit the fan on this of the police find Russian involvement.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6157707.stm
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9V
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:01 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 15):

Have you seen the new British Airways livery on London-Moscow flights?



 Big grin
 
Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:07 am

Quoting 9V (Reply 16):
Have you seen the new British Airways livery on London-Moscow flights?

 biggrin  Didn't take long, did it?
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thvgjp
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Thu Nov 30, 2006 2:55 pm

[quote=Banco,reply=15]The shit's going to hit the fan on this of the police find Russian involvement[/q

I really doubt it, if Putin ordered it personally, maybe some repurcussions, heck a few years ago the President of Ukraine was caught on tape implicating himself in the dissapearance/murder of a journalist. Nothing has been done about this yet, some talk of a trial but none yet. If some Russian spook did the assasination , Russia wil most likely deny knowledge of it and then swap him for some British spy later. The KGB has a long list of people who have been liquidated to furthur the gaoals and protect the honor of the socialist homeland. In almost all of these assasinations exotic poisons/neurotoxins were used and delivered to the victim in ingenious ways. Example, Ricin laced pellets injected into the victim with a umbrella pellet gun, Short acting, fast metabolizing cardiotoxins aerosolised into the victims face to ilicit cardiac arrest. are just a few of the past KGB proven killing methods. In both these cases the agtents involved were found out and arrested, one defected to Germany though. My point is one would figure these killing methods are not very economical, from a cost/benefit standpoint.. Lots of effort, research and planning went into these killings and attempts, and the perpetrator still was caught. A simple kidnapping/shooting assasination away from witnesses would be much more effective in silencing certain enemies of the state. It would look like a mugging of random attack, the perp could get away and still get the job his masters sent him to do done, without all the James Bond cloak and dagger baloney.
 
Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Thu Nov 30, 2006 5:58 pm

The difference here is that Litvinenko was a British citizen. We're not in the middle of the cold war, and we're not talking about silencing a dissident in their own country. The murder of Georgi Markov in 1978 did cause a diplomatic incident anyway.

But because things are supposed to be different now, the British have "requested" (i.e. demanded) Russian assistance. If it isn't forthcoming, then you're going to see diplomatic repercussions. It's not like anyone's going to go to war over it, but then countries rarely do. If thousands of people have then been put at possible risk on BA aircraft (in reality, the risk is low, but that isn't the point), then the British government are going to be hopping mad about it. And so are the Americans.

It's going to come back to how Russia reacts.
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9V
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Fri Dec 01, 2006 12:01 am

This news just in from the BBC:

 
pbottenb
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:20 am

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/a...o+Russian+nuclear+plant/article.do

OK - My question for all of you is where is the outrage?

If it was claimed to involve Pres Bush or the US I think that there would be many threads about it with condemnations coming from all around. But when it involves Russian officials (at least former officials), and at least potentially implicates the Russian President there is almost an acceptance of it as if it is business as usual (if indeed there are connections).

Remember that this is the same country (along with China) that is stopping sanctions against Iran and N Korea for their nuclear proliferation. It is also the same country that proved that it has the power to shut down Europe when it unilaterally cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine within the last year or so.

Shame
 
Banco
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Dec 02, 2006 2:51 am

Quoting Pbottenb (Reply 21):
If it was claimed to involve Pres Bush or the US I think that there would be many threads about it with condemnations coming from all around

Of course! The point being we'd never expect the US to be involved in something like that, because (disputes over foreign policy notwithstanding) you're better than that. Hence there would be outrage. Russian elements doing it? Well, depends if they were officially backed. If so, expect fury, if, not, we aren't quite so surprised.

Quoting Pbottenb (Reply 21):
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/a...o+Russian+nuclear+plant/article.do

I'd advise caution over this article though. It isn't being generally reported like this, so the truth of it is unverifiable at this stage.
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pbottenb
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RE: Spy Death Due To "radiation Poisoning"

Sat Dec 02, 2006 4:34 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 22):
Of course! The point being we'd never expect the US to be involved in something like that, because (disputes over foreign policy notwithstanding) you're better than that. Hence there would be outrage. Russian elements doing it? Well, depends if they were officially backed. If so, expect fury, if, not, we aren't quite so surprised.

Fair enough, but I would think that we should be holding the Russians to the same standards as the US.

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