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December 08, 2006

Debunking the "Smuggled Nuke Trigger" Theory

Gotta Know suggests I read AJ Strata for the theory that Litvinenko and his various confederates were involved in smuggling Polonium to make a trigger for a Russian suitcase nuke. I've mentioned that, and linked the Canada Free Press article about it, but I don't buy it.

Here's Strata:

I believe Kovtun and Litvinenko are the two prime vectors who were present at the incident in the Hotel room at the Millenium Hotel which appears to be a large, accidental contamination. They in turn trailed Polonium and infected secondary people like Scaramella and possibly Lugovoi. As time passed from the initial incident (which had to happen prior to the meeting with Scaramella) then potency of the trail detoriated.

Gotta Know says that's a "better fit" to the facts than the poisoning theory. I strongly disagree.

Apart from the fact that I just don't believe it in my gut, here's a more analytical objection.

Polonium is an alpha-emitter. Alpha particles can be blocked by paper, clothing, even just a person's skin. That's why such a toxin is usually only dangerous when ingested.

Now, if you're smuggling this, you will have it safely stored inside a case that does not permit the emission of alpha particles to the outside word. Lead lined. Hell, even a wooden box should do the trick.

How many times would the box have to be opened -- exposing the environment to radiation -- in the smuggled-trigger theory?

Either once or twice, tops, in London. The man who was ultimately going to have to make the trigger would obviously need to open the box. And, maybe, a courier would have to open it, to test it, and make sure he's actually getting Polonium rather than some fakey "radioactive material."

Why, then, are there so many traces throughout London? Litvinenko, if he accidentally poisoned himself, may have transferred some of it to some locations, of course.

But why are there traces of it in Lugovoy's hotel rooms? Why did he keep on opening the box, exposing the rooms to radiation? Why would he do such a thing, if he were just a courier trying to deliver a package?

EC notes that you can only transfer traces by direct contact, not simply by opening the box. So this theory has Lugovoy frequently handling the toxic material... to what end? Did he think it was Silly Putty?

It makes sense that he'd have traces of the material in his hotel room he had to handle the stuff, say, to put it into an eyedropper to poison a drink, or to poison a pack of cigarettes that could later be swapped for Litvinenko's own.

But why would he open it unless he had such a reason to open it?

And why on earth are the highest levels of radiation -- and an entire staff at the bar -- found in the Milennium hotel bar? Is this the sort of place one opens up a case of radioactive material for testing? Wouldn't someone do that in a less public place?

If this were a transfer of Polonium to people intending to make a trigger out of it, wouldn't they have met and opened the box (if at all) in a house or hotel room?

What kind of spycraft is it to open the thing in a hotel bar? Were they also planning on building the trigger right there over salsa chips and Mojitos?

Not buying it. The greatest level of exposure just happens to be at a place where people drink, eat, and smoke -- i.e., a perfect place for intentional poisoning -- and where there are a lot of other people around -- i.e., a very bad place to go opening up boxes containing nuclear material.

Unless someone can postulate a good reason this exchange -- with the box open, radioactive material spilling all over the joint -- went down in such an uncontrolled public venue, I just can't see the sense of the nuclear smuggling theory.


PS: If Litvinenko knew he's suffered a "Whoopsie!" in handling the nuclear material at a bar, why didn't he tip his doctors off to that, when they might, possibly, have saved him? Why did he wait, and wait, and wait, and wait until they finally, improbably, hit upon the mystery toxin, just as he was on the edge of death?


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posted by Ace at 11:56 AM

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