The recent international story about the death of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko has more than just a few wondering about radiation poisoning and the sinister sounding polonium-210. I was preparing to begin a nuclear radiation unit the Monday after Thanksgiving 2006. As it turned out, Litvinenko died Thanksgiving Day after a short and terrible three-week illness. Having the story continue to unfold throughout the next two weeks of the new unit provided a daily opportunity for students to see the relevance of what we were doing in class. My students were able to have meaningful and informed conversations with their peers and parents over an important international event. They even began to feel a bit like authorities themselves when listening to experts respond to media questions about polonium-210 and nuclear radiation in general. This paper discusses some of the ways that the story of Litvinenko was used while presenting the topic of nuclear radiation.

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