Follow the Polonium

Amid all the hysteria emanating from the British tabloid press (or do I repeat myself?) over l’affaire Litvinenko, the facts are not fitting the original narrative of a KGB hit against a heroic “human rights” crusader. UPI reports the latest in this developing story:

“Russia’s nuclear agency said the country is no longer producing radioactive polonium-210, the substance that killed a former KGB spy in Britain. An unidentified spokesman for the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power in Moscow said Monday that the only facility capable of producing the isotope was closed two years ago, the Novosti news agency reported.

“The spokesman said just 8 grams of polonium-210 have been created from reserve stocks of uranium.

“‘We have supplied it (polonium-210) to U.S. companies, and there were deliveries to British firms. The 8 grams we have produced cannot have disappeared in Russia, but we do not keep track of the material after selling it,’ the source said.”

This should be relatively easy to verify, given that Russia adheres to the Nonproliferation Treaty and its nuclear facilities are routinely inspected by the IAEA. If the Russians are telling the truth, then the polonium couldn’t have been procured in their country: if they are caught in a lie, then the cloud of suspicion hanging over the Kremlin will start emitting lightning bolts.

As columnist Gordon Prather points out, polonium-210 is proscribed by the NPT. There are, however, nuclear-armed states that refuse to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty — and, in one case, won’t even acknowledge its longstanding membership in the nuclear club. Investigators hunting down the assassin’s polonium source might want to start here, and then go here.

One thought on “Follow the Polonium”

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