Dec 27 2006

Mercury And Polonium?

Saldy folks I ended up with a terrible Christmas cold which is making me miserable. So the posting is light (and light headed). The news out today is that the Russians are looking at how another exiled Oligarch, Leonid Nevzlin, may have played a role in the Litvinenko incident:

“A version is being looked at that those who ordered these crimes could be the same people who are on an international wanted list for serious and very serious crimes, one of whom is … Leonid Nevzlin,” Russia’s prosecutor-general’s office said in a statement posted on its Web site

Not being a fan of any scenario where Polonium 210 is used for an assassination, I am warming to the idea that Litvinenko was assassinated by poisoning, which possible exposed a Polonium smuggling ring. But I still think all of this is the accidental exposure of a smuggling ring, with assassination as low probability possibility as a marginal issue. What struck my curiousity (and hopefully my readers with a few more neurons firing than I have going at the moment will delve into) is this new Mercury evidence:

The prosecutor general’s office said traces of evaporated mercury had been found in cars, flats, cottages and offices in both Moscow and London. It did not say who owned or used the properties.

Significant amounts of polonium 210 were found in Litvinenko’s body after his death, but it was unclear what role mercury could have played.

I may have some energy to connect the dots later. We shall see. The item of interest is “Red Mercury“, which has been linked to nuclear applications.

20 responses so far

20 Responses to “Mercury And Polonium?”

  1. erp says:

    I must revise a comment on an earlier post. Only Dostoevsky could write this book.

  2. crosspatch says:

    Might be an indication of the source of the polonium?

    In 1954, the Mound began a program using polonium-210 to convert nuclear energy to useable electric energy. This application of nuclear energy, using a thermoelectric principle, was demonstrated that same year, and in February, Mound received a directive to fabricate a polonium-powered model steam-electric plant. A model was built and demonstrated in 1954. In 1956, a conceptual design to produce a mercury boiler fueled with polonium was described. By 1958, an RTG powered by polonium-210 was built.

    The power density of polonium is unique and made it attractive as a power source. One pound of polonium-210 occupies a volume of approximately 3 cubic inches and produces heat at the rate of 3.6 x 108 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per minute or about 64 kilowatts of electric power. With a thermal energy output of 120 watts per g, polonium-210 was selected initially for use in the RTG.

    Known as SNAP, these generators convert the thermal energy generated by radioactive decay to electrical energy. The first SNAP-3A, fueled with polonium-210, provided power to a satellite radio transmitter. The use of satellites powered by SNAP for global communication was first demonstrated under President Eisenhower in 1961, at which time the President’s peace message was broadcast via a satellite containing a radio transmitter powered by the SNAP-3A RTG.

    Because polonium-210 has a short half-life (138 days), its usefulness was limited for application on long duration satellite and space probe missions. Polonium research and production at Mound were eventually phased out in 1971.

    Could someone have stolen a recently manufactured satellite power source? Looks like heat from polonium was used to heat mercury.

  3. Rosenkreutz says:

    Any idea why someone would want to heat mercury, Crosspatch?

  4. crosspatch says:

    There are also mercury isotopes created by the irradiation of lead/bismuth mixtures and it also appears that mercury is used in some fashion to test for the presence or or isolation of polonium but I don’t have access to the scientific papers that describe this process (something to do with using a mercury electrode).

  5. crosspatch says:

    From a web page:

    “Since mercury has a considerably higher boiling point than water, the use of mercury vapor in turbines is more efficient than the use of steam.”

    So you would use mercury instead of water in a boiler for a spacecraft power system using polonium as a heat source.

  6. crosspatch says:

    Example 1

    Example 2

    And there are several other examples if you look around. Use of mercury boilers to power turbines isn’t new in space technology.

  7. copydude says:

    This is just the Russian Prosecutor trying to muddy the waters.

    There is no way Len would get involved with a dirt-peddling squit like Litvinenko. He has enough problems staying out of trouble in Israel.

    Much more interesting is all the chickens coming home to roost in ROME.


    (AGI) – Rome, Dec 27 – “The Hon. Andrea Papini is altering the truth when he says I used information from Mario Scaramella in the electoral campaign, a statement he wishes to support using a declaration I made on April 5. That day, in fact, I did not cite Scaramella (whose documents from Litvinenko I stopped in the Commission’s process because their grounds could not be verified because the source of the news had been killed), but another public and official document, an act from the European Parliament, that is, the intervention by British MEP Gerald Batten on April 3, 2006, in which he asked the European Parliament to open an inquiry on former President of the Commission Romano Prodi and on his relationship with the Soviet Union. Batten said he listened to one of his constituents, Alexander Litvinenko, who supplied him the same information he had given to Scaramella and which I had made confidential. Batten’s intervention made that which I had kept secret on my own initiative public, but which from April 3 was no longer a secret, as it was in a parliamentary act which was also available on the Internet. In his intervention on April 3, Gerald Batten said that the Russian spy, later assassinated with Polonium 210, told him: ‘General Anatolij Trofimov, deputy head of the FSB (Russian secret service), advised me not to move to Italy because there are a lot of KGB agents among politicians and that Romano Prodi is our man there.’ As we all know, speculating on the past of Prof Prodi brings bad luck: Trofimov was killed, as well as Litvinenko, and Scaramella is in prison while new, crazy fabrications are being moved against me by the newspaper which is spearheading all this terrible set-up not aimed at Scaramella, but at the results of the Parliamentary inquiry commission on the Mitrokhin dossier and Italian intelligence,” said FI senator Paolo Guzzanti. (AGI) –
    271925 DIC 06

  8. clarice says:

    More B.S., AJ

  9. sbd says:

    Re: Red Mercury

    Nuclear Trafficking Hoaxes: A Short History of Scams Involving Red Mercury and Osmium-187

    Kenley Butler, Research Associate
    Akaki Dvali, Graduate Research Assistant
    Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) Monterey Institute of International Studies April 2004

    However, beginning in 1992, at the height of the red mercury scams, government and independent experts from Russia, the United States, and elsewhere made repeated attempts to debunk the idea that red mercury was a wonder-weapon. In September 1992, Yuriy Tychkov, deputy minister of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy and Industry, called rumors about red mercury’s usefulness in weapons a sham. According to Tychkov, many entrepreneurs were using the name of red mercury, an uncontrolled substance, as a cover for smuggling controlled substances—precious metals and fissile material—out of the country. Tychkov reported that dozens of Russian ministries were inundated with requests for export licenses for the non-existent substance.[15] The head of Interpol’s National Central Bureau in Russia, Militia Lieutenant General Vasiliy Ignatov, made the following statement at an Interpol congress in March 1993: “No red mercury exists in nature, either factually or physically, and such an element is impossible to create. What is being sold, as a rule, are different reagents.”[16] In a July 1993 Pravda article, Major General Aleksandr Gurov, director of the Russian Security Ministry’s Scientific Research Institute of Security was quoted as saying that red mercury is a slang term for “oxide of mercury.”[17] Gurov was later appointed head of a special government commission tasked with investigating red mercury. In his findings, released in 1995, Gurov insisted that red mercury does not exist.[18]

    One of the strangest chapters in the story of red mercury scams was the signing of Decree No. 75-RPS On the Promekologiya Concern on February 21, 1992 by then President Boris Yeltsin granting a Yekaterinburg-based company, Promekologiya, exclusive rights to produce, purchase, store, transport, and sell 84 tons of red mercury for $24.2 billion over a three-year period to a Van Nuys, California company called Automated Products International. Promekologiya was to use proceeds from the sales for public works projects throughout Russia, such as defense conversion, power generation, and environmental projects. The head of Promekologiya reported that his company received over $40 billion in orders from foreign companies.[19] The decree was later rescinded on March 20, 1993. Open source material does not indicate what materials, if any, actually changed hands.[20]


  10. lostinthedrift says:

    I think mercury could be a good medium to dilute polonium in, which could be used for mass poisoning. However, we have the very clear statement that passangers may not travel with more than 100 ml containers. In fact, as of November this is now a EU law. The implication is clearly that two solutions, or one solid and one solution, when mixed, will be explosive. The volume restriction tells us they have something specific in mind. It could be red mercury and polonium – allegedly material for a nuke.

  11. crosspatch says:

    Red mercury is a mythical substance that was claimed to be used in the creation of nuclear bombs. Samples obtained from arrested would-be terrorists invariably consisted of nothing more than various red dyes or powders of little value, which some suspect was being sold as part of a campaign intended to flush out potential terrorist organizations. Although this conclusion appears fairly strong, red mercury remains a topic of some dispute.

    There really is no such thing as “red mercury”.

  12. Carol_Herman says:

    Well, nobody said the muslims seeking fission material were all that smart!

    Too bad we didn’t learn this when the “search” for Saddam’s nuclear program obsessed about finding real stuff. And, not a track of payment records. Or things like “red mercury. (Though he did have “aluminum tubes.) He was gonna make a gigantic lipstick with it. For sky painting.

    Again, Litvenenko, himself, had to be the one who provided the “thought” that he could have been poisoned with polonium. Since he seemed shocked at how sick he became.

    And, then? All he did was “point” to Mario Scaramella. Who did “nothing” but accompany him for hours on November 1st.

    That things went awry? Obviously!

    That litvenenko was a blackmailer? Huh? He’s hanging around all these places? Out in the open? I thought blackmailers would stay in hiding. And, they’d try to shake down their “victims,” by sending missives that weren’t exactly trace-able.

    On the other hand? He’s dead. And, a smuggling ring is exposed. (And, an imam who could’a kept suitcase nukes in his basement, sure gave them up in a hurry, when a russian guy’s body, in a casket, was brought over. To have a “departing ceremony” perfromed. And, the “remains” were kept outside.

    Now? Polonium was the guess. With the help of Litvenenko. But how could he have consumed so much poison in one gulp? (So it speaks to a slow leak, over time.)

    You just never know what was sold here, either! Nobody says mercury couldn’t have been added, ya know. And, ya know why? IT WOULD ADD WEIGHT. It also has mysterious properties. Have you ever seen mercury “loose?” It could look like you’re chasing a marble.

    And, it might explain what was going on in that hotel room, as these “geniuses” were repackaging their materials.

    YES, to the “special paints.” I’m sure the rumor’s market is full of the “how to’s” that “home-chefs” try to cook up. Especially because the Stealth Bomber was developed to escape radar detection.

    A very long time ago, there was a scam. It dealt with a blimp! And, there was phony film. The whole 9 yards. And, do you know what gave the story away? The Hindenberg BLEW UP! From a spark on board.

    But the sting? Showed a safe landing.

    Buried in history, now.

    But President Bush wasn’t wrong to go after Saddam!

    As the jerks really are looking to make a “suitcase” nuke! That part of the story remains true!

    That they’re not scientifically adept.

    So, in the end, who knows? North Korea may not be “close” to this, either. And, they think they’re buying stuff off the shelf?

    It’s one thing to take commercial aircraft. Hijack same. And, turn them into flying missiles. There’s too much science fiction out there claiming this stuff is easy to do. And, the muzzies bought the stories!

    The oil wealth shieks provided da’ dough. And, the chechneyans? Oh, boy. You bet they would. IF they could!

    I still don’t think we’re even close on discovering the HOW. Like in, given how willing Litvenenko WAS! How did this IDIOT come in contact with this stuff? And, why is there a story about desperation for money; that EXCLUDES Litvenenko from working alone?

    The whole darn operation went up in smoke!

    And, I’ll bet ya the bad guys don’t know HOW either.

  13. MerlinOS2 says:

    CP said

    There really is no such thing as “red mercury”.

    In the pure physics , geology, earth sciences and other domains you are correct.

    I am treading a very thin line here but I will just say “code words”.

    I am sure you will get the point.

    Don’t shrug it off as an urban legend.

    Perhaps one day we can have a light banner discussion of phi mesons and the spin and parity of neutrinos.

    I find that is not a popular topic in sports bars.

    But one time at a piano bar I actually ran across a gal years ago that could intelligently discuss the second eigenvalue of the Helmholtz equation.

  14. MerlinOS2 says:

    Sheesh that was suppose to be banter.

  15. MerlinOS2 says:

    She also knew the difference between albedo and libedo, but is digress.

  16. MerlinOS2 says:

    In case any of you went to look up albedo and ended up at the Wikipedia entry, it also applies to nuclear physics.

    It mathematically describes the attenuation of particle densities generated in a nuclear power plant or any nuclear point source transiting through materials, especially modeled to primary reactor core shielding materials and secondary containment shields to calculate the amount of shielding to install to reach allowable exposure limits at the contact surface of the secondary shield.

    With having said that, I bet you all now have a good topic to discuss at your next cocktail party.

    Yeah, sure , right.


  17. crosspatch says:

    Quite possible, MerlinOS2, though I would have no direct knowledge of any such wording and it would have undoubtedly been changed by now in any case. So my skepticism of finding mercury deposits (of a type one might find from condensed mercury vapor) having anything to do with a “red mercury” material stands. In other words, it this context it would have to literally be mercury.

    However, if one had obtained a recently manufactured mercury turbine generator designed for spacecraft use and disassembled it, it would account for both the mercury deposits and the plume of polonium contamination that seems to enshroud all players in this drama. In other words, sloppy handling of dangerous material by untrained hands.

    Of course I am speculating. There could be other explainations such as some use of mercury in some way to detect polonium by someone suspecting they might be contaminated in the course of trafficking in the material or it could mean someone broke a fluorescent light fixture at some point.

  18. Carol_Herman says:

    “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”

    Marcus Welby.

    And, people believed him.

    I’m not surprised something would show up that proports to be “valuable” fuels for nuclear armaments.

    All this would prove?

    Is that there was a smuggling plot. A few idiots got involved. This caused the “transfer” of at least “some” polonium.

    And, it brought out, once one of the crooks took ill from radiation poisoning; AND he was hospitalized, BELIEVING that he had been poisoned … a story took off with a life of its own!

    By the way, “that bar story?” Reminds me of one Richard Feynman told when he met some Las Vegas hookers, who knew that Murray “pronounced his name as “Gell-man.” Nice Jewish guys.

    Bar chatter doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Do you know why? If you’re drinking a day before your physics exam, even if you met Madame Curie, herself, in a bar, you wouldn’t learn enough to pass the tougher questions. Though you’d probably get the instructions right. You put your name up on the top right of the answer sheet.

    Nothing here, yet, brings you a day closer to understanding what actually went on. That it was a smuggling ring? Yup. That Litvenenko had to provide the polonium clue to his doctors? Yup. They, of course, were taking painful tests, and filling him in on what they found. For some reason, he thought he could get bone marrow transplants. But then? It seems the polonium went down on a dosage scale no human would willingly swallow.

    Unless? Like Madame Curie, the exposure occurs “over time.”

  19. Carol_Herman says:

    If clues were divided into two groups;

    ONE: Probably happened. Part of the trail.


    In which group would you put the mercury?

    In which group would you put putin’s musings? He’s now blaming a russian who became an Israeli. (Per Drudge’s report, today.) AND? The man was traveling with his family to the USA. So the ever helpful FBI stopped him. And, questioned him for hours. Of course, if you’re a billionaire; it’s not hard to find a good lawyer. So, traveling to the USA, from the safety of Israel, where putin has been pressing for extradition, is not entirely impossible.

    Putin’s disadvantage? As rich as he gets he still has to live in russia.