[ RadSafe ] NYT Op-Ed: The Smoky Bomb Threat (on Po-210)

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 27 10:26:48 CST 2006

Dr. Cohen,
The quote is not mine.  I do concur with your comments
about dispersal of the toxin being a limiting factor. 
We have seen similar comments made about the use of
Pu-240 thermoelectric generators as power sources for
deep space probes, e.g., Cassini

--- "Bernard L. Cohen" <blc+ at pitt.edu> wrote:

> John Jacobus wrote:
> >Polonium sources with about 10 percent of a lethal
> >dose are readily available - even in a product sold
> >on Amazon.com. Only modest restraints inhibit
> purchase
> >of significantly larger amounts of polonium: as of
> >next year, anyone purchasing more than 16 curies of
> >polonium 210 - enough to make up 5,000 lethal doses
> -
> >must register it with a tracking system run by the
> >Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
> >
> >  
> >
>     ---The error in this discussion of how a dirty
> bomb can disperse 
> Polonium is that it ignores the probability for an
> atom so dispersed to 
> be inhaled by a human. This is discussed in my paper
> on "Probability for 
> human intake of an atom randomly released into the
> ground, rivers, 
> oceans, and air", Health Phys 47:281-292;1984, where
> it is concluded 
> that with dispersal in the most densely populated
> areas (e.g. 
> Manhattan), this probability is of order 1/100,000.
> Thus, the amount 
> dispersed would have to be 20 x 16 curies = 320
> curies to cause a single 
> early death. Surely anyone can think of better
> materials for such a 
> terrorist bomb. Even chlorine gas, readily available
> for purchase in any 
> quantity, would be much more effective, not to
> mention nerve gases, 
> anthrax, etc.

On Nov. 26, 1942, President Roosevelt ordered nationwide gasoline 
rationing, beginning December 1.   

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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