Y’all know about red mercury, right? It’s the secret to making nuclear weapons out of something that isn’t uranium or plutonium. Or it makes those fissile materials more fissile. Or it’s in the detonators. If you’re interested, I know a source…
C. J. Chivers wrote the ultimate story on it back in 2015. It’s allegedly been for sale to terrorists in the Middle East, and Russia was buzzing about it in the 1990s, after the Soviet breakup. I recall questions about it circulating at Los Alamos at that time, which was the first I heard of it.
Sergei Dobrynin and Robert Coalson have written about the role of a St. Petersburg official in a red mercury scam of the 1990s, as a part of an RFE/RL series on corruption scandals and scams that swirled around Vladimir Putin and his associates as he began his political ascent.
It’s a complicated story, involving a number of companies whose relationships I leave to the RFE/RL article. The central company, Alkor, actually manufactured mercury pyroantimonate, which is industrially useful but not capable of red mercury’s amazing nuclear feats. But if you sold it that way, you could get hundreds of times what it was worth industrially.
So yeah, that was one of the things Putin did while he was in the St. Petersburg city government. Probably gave him valuable experience in setting up shell companies.
There’s lots more in those articles. If you’re interested in red mercury, read them.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner