During the next few weeks of confusion and cover-up about the Litvinenko poisoning, look out for the word ‘lead', which may yet pin the tail on the Russian donkey.Lead, as in the element Pb, the stuff we drown worms with.
Polonium-210, the next-to-last link in the Uranium 8 radioactive decay chain, decays to lead-206, which is stable. Therefore a sample of pure polonium-210 kept for 138 days (its half life) would change into a 50-50 mixture of polonium and lead. On the other hand, a sample of polonium-210 without any lead in it would have to be fresh-from-the-reactor material.The radioactive decay chain depicts the gradual transformation of Uranium 238 into Lead 206. If you check the bottom of the chart, you'll see that there are no other elements between Polonium 210 and Lead 206. When a Polonium 210 atom emits an alpha particle (two protons and two neutrons = 4 atomic mass units) it becomes Lead 206.
It is very likely that the doctors treating Litvinenko tested for lead, the most common heavy metal poison. But although the news reports mentioned thallium (a byproduct in the production of Po-210), there was no mention of any traces of lead. If there was none, then Litvinenko was poisoned with freshly made polonium, only a few days old.It reminds me of the James Bond movie, "From Russia, With Love."
Nothing says STFU like a hot, steaming batch of polonium.
I suggest that any purchase of the poisonous dose through a black market route-say a dealer in Jakarta who had a contact in Kazakhstan who could get it from someone in the Ukraine, etc.-would have taken weeks between reactor and assassin. The only way to have obtained fresh material quickly would have been through the auspices of a high-level official who could smooth the way for fast transport. Now who could that have been, I wonder?