A new method for producing plutonium-238 invented
How to make Plutonium
Physicists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a new method for the automated production of plutonium-238, which will increase its production eightfold.
Previously, a radioactive isotope was mainly needed for nuclear weapons, and now it is used for medical sterilization, artistic restoration, power supply of spacecraft systems and other peaceful purposes. After the end of the Cold War, many governments scaled back their national production programs, although need in radioisotope preserved. ORNL researchers have been making it by hand, but recently figured out how to automate the process..
To do this, they form neptunium-aluminum oxide granules. Neptunium is also a radioactive metal element, and if the granules are further irradiated, the so-called neptunium-238 is created, which quickly decays and forms usable 238Pu.
According to scientists, partial automation of production will increase the annual production of plutonium from 50 g to 400 g. Additionally, the reduction of manual operations reduces the level of potential risks..
Chinese scientists have also made incredible progress in transforming atoms. They were able to turn copper into an analogue of gold.
text: Ivan Malichenko, photo: Oak Ridge National Lab