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|Atomic Number:||94||Atomic Symbol:||Pu|
|Atomic Weight:||244||Electron Configuration:||2-8-18-32-24-8-2|
|Melting Point:||639.5oC||Boiling Point:||3235oC|
|Description:||Man-made radioactive metal.|
|Uses:||Used in bombs and reactors.|
- Plutonium was the second transuranium element of the actinide series to be
- The isotope 238Pu was produced in 1940 by Seaborg, McMillan, Kennedy, and
Wahl by deuteron bombardment of uranium in the 60-inch cyclotron at Berkeley,
- Plutonium also exists in trace quantities in naturally occuring uranium
- It is formed in much the same manner as neptunium, by irradiation of natural
uranium with the neutrons which are present.
- By far of greatest importance is the isotope Pu239, with a half-life of
24,100 years, produced in extensive quantities in nuclear reactors from natural
uranium: 238U --> 239U --> 239Np --> 239Pu.
- Fifteen isotopes of plutonium are known. Plutonium has assumed the position
of dominant importance among the trasuranium elements because of its successful
use as an explosive ingredient in nuclear weapons and the place which it holds
as a key material in the development of indsutrail use of nuclear power.
- One kilgram is equivalent to about 22 million kilowatt hours of heat energy.
- The complete detonation of a kilogram of plutonium produces an explosion
equal to about 20,000 tons of chemical explosive.
- Its importance depends on the nuclear property of being readily fissionable
with neutrons and its availability in quantity.
- The world's nuclear-power reactors are now producing about 20,000 kg of
- By 1982 it was estimated that about 300,000 kg had accumulated.
- The various nuclear applications of plutonium are well known.
- 238Pu has been used in the Apollo lunar missions to power seismic and other
equipment on the lunar surface.
- As with neptunium and uranium, plutonium metal can be prepared by reduction
of the trifluoride with alkaline-earth metals.
- The metal has a silvery appearance and takes on a yellow tarnish when
- It is chemically reactive.
- A relatively large piece of plutonium is warm to the touch because of the
energy given off in alpha decay.
- Larger pieces will produce enough heat to boil water.
- The metal readily dissolves in concentrated hydrochloric acid, hydroiodic
acid, or perchloric acid.
- The metal exhibits six allotropic modifications having various crystalline
- The densities of these vary from 16.00 to 19.86 g/cm^3.
- Plutonium also exhibits four ionic valence states in aqueous solutions: Pu+3
(blue lavender), Pu+4 (yellow brown), PuO+ (pink?), and PuO+2(pink-orange).
- The ion PuO+ is unstable in aqueous solutions, disproportionating into Pu+4
- The Pu+4 thus formed, however, oxidizes the PuO+ into PuO+2, itself being
reduced to Pu+3, giving finally Pu+3 and PuO+2.
- Plutonium forms binary compounds with oxygen: PuO, PuO2, and intermediate
oxides of variable composition; with the halides: PuF3, PuF4, PuCl3, PuBr3,
PuI3; with carbon, nitrogen, and silicon: PuC, PuN, PuSi2.
- Oxyhalides are also well known: PuOCl, PuOBr, PuOI.
- Because of the high rate of emission of alpha particles and the element
being specifically absorbed by bone marrow, plutonium, as well as all of the
other transuranium elements except neptunium, are radiological poisons and must
be handled with very special equipment and precautions.
- Plutonium is a very dangerous radiological hazard.
- Precautions must also be taken to prevent the unintentional formulation of a
- Plutonium in liquid solution is more likely to become critical than solid
- The shape of the mass must also be considered where criticality is concerned