What are the illicit uses
for pure Polonium 210?
Virtually all of the known
production of Polonium 210 – less than 4 ounces
a year– comes from two Russian nuclear reactors
and is chemically embedded in minute traces in plastic
or ceramic and has a half-life of only 137 days. So
pure Polonium 210 is exceedingly rare on the nuclear
black market. If obtainable, it would be valuable to
the following parties:
A rogue nation with access to fissile fuel such as U-235..
The Polonium 210, a powerful emitter of Alpha particles,
can be used as the initiator for setting off a chain
reaction, in combination with Beryllium (which is now
available in hi-fi speakers).
A terrorist group interested in building a dirty bomb.
Polonium 210, in combination with conventional explosives,
such as TNT, aerosolizes at about 55 degrees Centigrade,
and would contaminate a wide area.
An agent wishing to demonstrate he had bona fide access
to a Russian nuclear reactor for purposes of either
espionage or a black-market deal. Only four facilities
are licensed to handle Polonium 210 in Russia: Moscow
State University; Techsnabexport, the state-controlled
uranium export agency; the Federal Nuclear Center in
Samara; and Nuclon, a private company. Since all these
licensees are monitored by the Russian government, a
smuggled sample of Polonium 210 would demonstrate that
the agent had successfully bribed, blackmailed or otherwise
someone in the Russian nuclear industry.
An anti-Putin faction, such as the Chechen underground.
Since Russia is the only known manufacturer of Polonium
210, a minute supply of pure Polonium 210 could be used
to paint an easily detectable trail that would lead