Dec 29 2006

British Prepare For Dirty Bomb

Update: It is clear from this later reporting that this effort is simply at the procurement stage and is not being done in any expidited manner. It would be nice of the media could attempt a modicum of accuracy and detail on these stories. And I will attempt a modicum of restraint as well. – end update

Clear indications today Britian is preparing for possible Dirty Bomb attack, as they beef up their stores of specialized radiation protection equipment:

THOUSANDS more British police will be issued with protective suits to wear in the event of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.

The 12,000 new suits would be worn at the scene of a “dirty bomb” attack, where explosives are used to spread radioactive material.

Britain’s security services are on the second-highest level of alert for a terrorist attack. They say an attack is “highly likely”.

A Home Office spokesman said the decision to buy new equipment for the police was not linked to any specific threat.

“Technology is constantly advancing and as part of that process we are procuring 12,000 new suits,” the spokesman said today.

“It’s just a desire to provide police with the right equipment.”

I have no idea what the state-of-the-art suits cost these days, but you can get what I would assume are older models for $1200 dollars on the web (the internet is a very strange place indeed). At a price that must be over $14.4 million for the latest gear this is not some small expense for a police force. The UK is clearly still girding for an attack and they are rightfully not relying on the assassination theory surrounding Litvinenko’s death to account for all the Polonium-210 that may have been smuggled in.

In trying to explain the relative amounts being discussed I used 16 oz coke bottles as the example. It is assumed Litvinenko ingested 1 thousandth of a gram of Polonium-210. A gram of a crystal or powder is roughly what you get in a packet of sweetener. If we equate the Litvinenko dosage to 2 16 oz cokes, then the gram (the packet of sweetener) is equal to a ton of coke – or 2,000 16 oz cokes. We think there may have been as many as three cosignments of Polonium-210 brought into London during October. It is nearly impossible to handle a thousandth of a gram of anything – that is less than a grain of salt. So it would seem there must be more Polonium smuggled in than killed Litvinenko. And it would seem the trail across the three countries known to have radiation contamination is much more than what killed Litvinenko.

So what was the size of the consignment? If it was the size of one packet of sweetener, it was only three grams over three trips. But that is well over 3,000 times the dosage that killed Litvinenko and sufficient to kill millions of people.

Interestingly, we are not seeing a lot of secondary contamination – which I must caveat with a strong “yet” – around the London hotspots associated with the three possible consignment shipments:

Hundreds of people who were at two central London hotels where murdered former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko met contacts have been given the all clear.

Traces of the radioactive substance polonium-210 were discovered at the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Mayfair where the Russian met contacts and at the Sheraton Hotel in exclusive Park Lane.

Although eight staff members at the Millenium Hotel and one at the Sheraton were discovered to have received low non life-threatening dosage due to contamination, the Government’s Health Protection Agency said 486 guests and workers showed no signs of contamination.

However 670 people are still awaiting the results of testing for contamination from the radioactive isotope.

This is a welcomed and interesting development. My suspicions are for those still awaiting tests these are people who had the disfortune to stay in the contaminated rooms at the three hotels now part of the Polonium trail. But if the contamination scope doesn’t spread out then this provides more clues as to the nature of the Polonium-210, and how it could be trailed. Particulate forms would float around and get everywhere – as has been seen in labs attempting to deal with Polonium. If the Polonium tended to ‘stick’ to a spot, then it may have been in liquid form and, as the liguid evaporatated, dried to the fabric. Of course we could have different forms of the material at different times – depending on what was being done in all those contaminated hotel rooms.

But there is one other interesting item in the story about the lack of contamination in guests at the hotel:

The agency said the dosage received by the workers are lower than that received by Mrs Litvinenko and the levels of contamination but they were “not significant enough to result in any illness in the short term and any increased risk in the long term is likely to be very small.”

Emphasis mine. It is clear from this that the physical contamination of the sites is actually higher than the poison levels being detected inside people. Two words – ‘contamination’ and ‘poisoning’ – describing the amount of Polonium at each ‘site’. As I suspected the trail is much hotter than the people exposed. Litvinenko still has the highest dosage in this event. Kovtun looks to be second, with Lugovoi third and Scaramella fourth (with what is probably a fatal dose, but without any signs yet). From there we get to Marina Litvinenko and all the others. 4 people showing potentially deadly doses – with one of the four showing a massive dose. But is the trail itself the largest pool of Polonium? Clearly the contamination at some of these sites is higher than that found in those whose doses are less than Marina’s. But we cannot yet tell if it is higher or lower than the four known high dose victims. What we are seeing is the Polonium is not poisoning as much as it is contaminating. This leads me to believe a lot of the trail is due to a liquid which gets on clothes or skin and is later washed off – removing the threat of poisoning. All speculation of course.

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “British Prepare For Dirty Bomb”

  1. Lizarde1 says:

    LONDON — Ten people have shown signs of low-level exposure to polonium-210, the rare radioactive element that killed one-time Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko, British health authorities said yesterday.

    Seven of those who tested positive were staff from the Pine Bar in London’s Millennium Hotel, which Litvinenko visited on Nov. 1, the day he became ill, the authority said.

    It seems this number does NOT include Scaramella, Walter, the father of Litvinenko, Litvinenko’s son and his wife – since that makes 4 and the health department says 10. If 7 were at the pine bar who were the other 3? Originally I believe we heard 8 were contaminated at the Pine Bar. Could these others be hotel workers?

  2. Lizarde1 says:

    ok posted without reading!
    from AJ’s source:
    The nine hotel workers and Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina tested positive for traces of the substance since Mr Litvinenko died in a London hospital on November 23.

    BUT we also read that Walter and the son tested positive???? And what about Scaramella?

  3. AJStrata says:


    5 at the Pine Bar (one of the original 6 turned out to be OK) and 2 more staffers from the Hotel (presumably cleaning staff). 1 staffer at the Sheraton. 2 Police officers from the Litvinenko home.

    No, they are not counting Marina, Scaramella, Kovtun, Lugovoi or Litvinenko. Typical poor reporting. I though Litvinenko’s son turned out to be free of poison. Recall they are discussing people who were poisoned – not people contaminated (showing signs on the outside).

    This is a key distinction to keep in mind. I believe Kovtun’s family showed contamination – no poisoning. That was the same for Walter. Hospital staff should show contamination – but they were all cleared of poisoning (they have clear procedures to avoid getting bodily fluids, etc on them). It really is important to differentiate between external contamination and internal poisoning. The list of people contaminated is probably enormous (and under wraps).

  4. Lizarde1 says:

    AJ Thanks for the clarification – forgot all about the 2 policemen – the reporting is horrible.

  5. jerry says:

    “It is clear from this that the physical contamination of the sites is actually higher than the poison levels being detected inside people.”

    With the notable exception of Sasha and that one cup in the Pine Bar I don’t think there’s any reason to think that significant/dangerous levels of Po have been found anywhere, even in Room 411, but I repeat myself.

  6. AJStrata says:


    The fact is Litvinenkos clothes and his house were very contaminated, and that is how two police officers ended up poisoned. The Sushi Bar was very hot – just not the people. That is why it was suspected as the initial poisoning site (because the meeting predates the meeting in the Pine Bar). The Sheraton has five rooms quarantined and the Millenium has about four. The fact one room is very hot doesn’t imply the other sites where non-lethal. The dishwasher in the Pine Bar was very hot and considered dangerous. Also, it would seem the airplanes may have been fairly hot and cleaned up for use.

    Given the toxicity of this substance and the fact we have no idea how much is out there and how much has been found (and whether these sites were cleaned up to make them safe) I would suggest it may be irresponsible to speculate everything is just fine on such little information.

  7. AJStrata says:


    That’s what I am here for!

  8. jerry says:

    (Submitting this again as my browser showed no connection after the first try)

    AJ, working from the news reports is like tea-leaf reading… but I’ll stick with my reading – that there isn’t any significant contamination other than Sasha and the cup, none of the areas you’ve mentioned are dangerous, just contaminated (probably the dishwasher is the worst); I also haven’t seen anything that makes me think anyone other than Sahsa ingested significant amounts of Po.

  9. lostinthedrift says:

    I’d like to add the Swede with the elevated internal level of polonium to the list.

  10. jerry says:

    As to the Swedish tourist:

    “The results of the tests on the Swedes show that one of them has slightly raised levels of polonium…. In one case it has been possible to see a slight increase of polonium in the urine, but it’s not at a level that poses a health risk…. However, there are other possible causes for the increase, such as smoking or the consumption of certain foods…. But it could also be related to the London visit…. The person with the increased level of polonium visited the bar at the hotel in London where Litvinenko stayed. No treatment is required, said Holst.”

    I guess this would be levels of alpha radiation “slightly raised” from near zero/”background” levels (aka entirely insignificant). This is a near perfect example a non-story, it could be from common foods (yikes!) or smoking or even “polonium” “poisoning” from the Pine Bar.

  11. jerry says:

    “TEN people have signs of mild exposure to the radioactive substance that killed ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, it was revealed yesterday…. The Health Protection Agency said no one with traces of polonium 210 had been exposed to enough to cause immediate illness with risk of long term illness “very small”…. Seven who tested positive worked in the Pine Bar of London’s Millennium Hotel where Mr Litvinenko went before he fell ill on November 1.”

    So (if I’m counting right) there were seven in the Pine Bar, one Swede who went to the Pine Bar, Sasha’s wife, and one person at the Sheraton – with none seriously affected, only Sasha.

  12. Adapt says:

    My prayers are with everyone in the UK, lets hope nothing happens this weekend.