[ RadSafe ] RE: 15000 units of Po210

Jim Hardeman Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us
Tue Dec 19 12:14:10 CST 2006

Folks --

I went back and looked at Georgia's Rules and Regulations for
Radioactive Materials ... NRC's and most states' regulations for
exemptions and the like should be similar (if not identical).

As I indicated in an earlier e-mail, the exempt quantity for Po-210 is
0.1 microcurie (good memory on my part!). There is, however, a provision
for general licensure for static elimination devices containing sealed
Po-210 sources up to 500 microcuries ... I'm not sure as to these
particular devices (I'm not in our materials program) but normally
persons selling generally licensed devices are required to report to the
radiation control authority in a particular jurisdiction the names,
addresses, etc. of persons or firms acquiring such devices within their
jurisdiction ... and this notification requirement may vary from one
jurisdiction to another. The distinction between an exempt source and
one acquired under a general license may be subtle, but the general
license does at least allow for "some" ability to backtrack. But the
bottom line is, yes, it is is legal for "anyone" to own a static
elimination device containing up to 500 uCi Po-210 ... and for that
matter, there's no legal restriction against "anyone" possessing more
than one (1) of these devices.

My $0.02 worth ...

Jim Hardeman
Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us

>>> Keith Welch <welch at jlab.org> 12/19/06 11:09 AM >>>
Ten million dollars?  Sheeesh.  Looks like United Nuclear is part of the

problem.  That info on their website is just bogus.  You can buy 500 uCi

(I seem to remember a consensus that a few millicuries is lethal) static

eliminator sources for 20 bucks (online, with a credit card and no 
license).  And that news report is even more flaky.  What a bunch of 
hogwash.  Sounds like some rag-mag trying to fan the flame of a 
conspiracy theory.  Fact is anybody with a credit card can buy enough Po

to kill someone with, and could likely produce the poison by simple 
mechanical means (it wouldn't take a chemist or physicist).  Yes, they'd

get pretty contaminated doing it, and they'd waste a lot of the Po, and 
it might not be in the most efficient form to be absorbed, but hey, it's

cheap, just buy ten times more than you need.  Basic precautions would 
keep them from  killing themselves in the process.  My guess is 
somewhere, someone's got a really crapped-up basement - but not for too 

Keith Welch

> Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2006 09:23:45 -0500
> From: Cindy Bloom <radbloom at comcast.net>
> Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Po-210: What is a unit?
> To: <radsafe at radlab.nl>
> Message-ID: < at mail.comcast.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"; format=flowed
> The United Nuclear's website supports Jim's conjecture.
> http://www.unitednuclear.com/isotopes.htm
> Cindy
> At 09:01 AM 12/19/2006 -0500, Jim Hardeman wrote:
>> >Ivor --
>> >
>> >Just guessing, but I would think that "unit" in this context means
>> >amount of material present in one of the sources that United Nuclear

>> >offers for sale for $69 ... sort of like counting how many smoke
>> >you would need to make an RDD. If I remember correctly, the United
>> >sources are distributed in the US as exempt items ... meaning that
>> >one (from memory) would contain ~0.1 microcurie or less of Po-210.
>> >
>> >Jim Hardeman
>> >Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us
>> >
>>>>> > >>> Ivor Surveyor <isurveyor at vianet.net.au> 12/18/2006 18:29 >>>
>> >The following report is from the
>> >AUSTRALIAN.    Can somebody please explain what
>> >is meant by a "unit of radioactivity," as quoted in the article.
>> >
>> >Russian spy's fatal dose of poison cost $13m
>> >Correspondents in London
>> >19dec06
>> >
>> >BRITISH police believe the radioactive substance
>> >used to kill former Russian spy Alexander
>> >Litvinenko cost more than $US10 million ($13 million).
>> >
>> >According to The Times, preliminary results from
>> >the post-mortem examination on Litvinenko's body
>> >have shown he was given more than 10 times the
>> >lethal dose of polonium-210, large quantities of
>> >which were found in his urine.
>> >
>> >"Only a state-sponsored organisation could obtain
>> >such a large amount of polonium-210 without
>> >raising suspicion on the international market,"
>> >said Alexander Goldfarb, a friend of Litvinenko.
>> >
>> >United Nuclear Scientific Supplies, based in New
>> >Mexico - one of the few companies allowed to sell
>> >polonium-210 over the internet - said it would
>> >take at least 15,000 units of the isotope to kill someone.
>> >
>> >With each unit costing $US69, it would have cost
>> >more than $US10 million to deliver Litvinenko's fatal dose.
>> >
>> >"You can't buy this much off the internet or
>> >steal it from a laboratory without raising an
>> >alarm, so the only two plausible explanations for
>> >the source are that it was obtained from a
>> >nuclear reactor or very well-connected
>> >black-market smugglers," an unidentified British security source
>> >
>> >British detectives working on the case in Moscow
>> >were due to return to Britain this week.
>> >
>> >Security sources said Russian officials refused
>> >to ask questions of Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri
>> >Kovtun - both of whom met Litvinenko on the day
>> >he fell ill - that British detectives wanted
>> >answered. They had not complained publicly
>> >because of the importance of the case to
>> >diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia.
>> >
>> >High-ranking Kremlin officials have mocked
>> >Litvinenko's boasts, after he defected to
>> >Britain, about his role in their security services.
>> >
>> >Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov claimed that
>> >Litvinenko, far from being a top KGB spy as he
>> >liked to claim, was merely a prison guard.
>> >
>> >Mr Ivanov said Litvinenko had never had access to
>> >secret or important information and was "of such
>> >poor character" he was dismissed from the Russian
>> >security agency when it was being run by Vladimir Putin.
>> >
>> >"He was never a spy and never knew anything of
>> >any real value to give to any (foreign
>> >intelligence) service," Mr Ivanov said. "He was
>> >just a Russian who meant nothing to us."
>> >
>> >Referring to the letter in which Litvinenko
>> >accused the Kremlin of poisoning him, Mr Ivanov
>> >said:"We didn't care what he said and what he wrote on his
>> >
>> >Kremlin officials again described the accusations
>> >of Russian involvement made by Litvinenko and his friends as
>> >
>> >Valentin Velichko, a colonel who is president of
>> >Honour and Dignity, a powerful group of KGB
>> >veterans, dismissed Litvinenko as "a nonentity".
>> >
>> >He said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya
>> >Gazeta newspaper that Litvinenko was never a
>> >target for Russian intelligence because he was
>> >not important enough to bother with.

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