The apparent murder of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko through polonium poisoning seemed like an outlandish innovation in crime. But it was not the first time that polonium had been deliberately administered to human subjects.
In 1944 at the University of Rochester in New York, “tracer amounts of radioactive polonium-210 were injected into four hospitalized humans and ingested by a fifth,” according to a 1995 retrospective account (pdf).
Four men and one women who were already suffering from a variety of cancers reportedly volunteered for the dangerous experiment. One patient died from his cancer six days after the injection.
See “Polonium Human-Injection Experiments,” Los Alamos Science, Number 23, 1995.
That polonium article appeared as a sidebar in a larger paper called “The Human Plutonium Injection Experiments” (pdf) by William Moss and Roger Eckhardt, which follows on the work of reporter Eileen Welsome, builds on the declassification activities of Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary, and complements the research of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. See the Moss and Eckhardt paper from Los Alamos Science here.
Polonium was classified in July 1945, the authors note, and given the code name “postum.”
The basic chemistry and physics of polonium were declassified in 1946. The fact that polonium-210 was used in nuclear weapon initiators was declassified in 1967, according to a Department of Energy historical account.
To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.
Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.