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Friday, 17 March 2017

Plutonium

Plutonium is a highly radioactive silvery-white metal, which is used in most nuclear weapons. It is the chemical element with the atomic number 94 and chemical symbol Pu.

Plutonium was first produced and isolated on December 14, 1940 by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg and his co-workers at the University of California, Berkeley by bombarding uranium with deuterons.

Twenty micrograms of pure plutonium hydroxide

In 1941, Glenn T. Seaborg named the newly created element plutonium after Pluto. This was in keeping with the tradition of naming elements after newly discovered planets, following uranium, which was named after Uranus, and neptunium, which was named after Neptune.

The Hanford Atomic Facility in the U.S. state of Washington was the first plutonium-production reactor. It produced its first plutonium on November 6, 1944 and would go on to create more for almost the entire American nuclear arsenal.

The Hanford site represents two-thirds of US'a high-level radioactive waste by volume.

The Atomic Age begins when the USA successfully detonated a plutonium-based nuclear weapon near Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945.

A ring of weapons-grade 99.96% pure electrorefined plutonium, enough for one bomb core

The scientist who analysed the plutonium for the first atomic bomb was called Mr Doom.

The most common plutonium isotope is plutonium-239. It takes 24,110 years for half of a sample of plutonium-239 to decay, which is called its half-life.

Plutonium-238 is used as a heat source in nuclear batteries to produce electricity in devices such as unmanned spacecraft and interplanetary probes.

Plutonium has some awkward physical properties. The reactivity and toxicity of plutonium make it difficult to handle and its poison absorbs into bones.

It leaves your body very slowly in the urine and feces. If you were to inhale some plutonium today, much of it would still be in your body hundreds of years later.


Ingestion or inhalation of large amounts may cause acute radiation poisoning and possibly death. However no human being is known to have passed away because of inhaling or ingesting plutonium, and many people have measurable amounts of plutonium in their bodies.

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