Who knows if you MINE for Plutonium, or MAKE it?

Mine it
0 (0%)
Make it
11 (100%)

Total Members Voted: 11

mlgunner on July 06, 2010, 12:18:08 pm
Plutonium is made in a reactor by bombarding Uranium 238 with Deuterons.  Though it does occur in nature in trace amounts, it is not common enough to mine, and it is usually synthesized if needed.  Plutonium is extremely dangerous to handle as it is a heat and alpha radiation source,  it oxidizes very quickly when exposed to air, and the oxidized material is known to be very poisonous and to spontaneously ignite.

Brugle on July 06, 2010, 01:25:09 pm
Plutonium is made in a reactor by bombarding Uranium 238 with Deuterons.  Though it does occur in nature in trace amounts, it is not common enough to mine, and it is usually synthesized if needed.  Plutonium is extremely dangerous to handle as it is a heat and alpha radiation source,  it oxidizes very quickly when exposed to air, and the oxidized material is known to be very poisonous and to spontaneously ignite.
Plutonium formed in nuclear reactors comes mainly from the reaction of U-238 nuclei and neutrons, not deuterons.  (Plutonium was first synthesized using deuterons from cyclotrons.)

Natural plutonium is indeed rare in the earth's crust, but I would expect that elemental abundances (averages as well as concentrations) in asteroids to be different.

Natural plutonium would have a much different isotopic composition from plutonium produced in nuclear reactors.  Specifically, I'd expect natural plutonium to be composed of the longest-lived isotope(s), and to therefore be much less radioactive and heat-producing.  Is Pu-244 usable in nuclear reactors or bombs?  If not, and if Bert & Ernie find some plutonium, they could be disappointed.

On the other hand, whatever Bert and Ernie find, it may not be "natural".
« Last Edit: July 06, 2010, 01:27:34 pm by Brugle »

throopw on July 06, 2010, 11:25:42 pm
Plutonium is made in a reactor by bombarding Uranium 238 with Deuterons.  Though it does occur in nature in trace amounts, it is not common enough to mine, and it is usually synthesized if needed.  Plutonium is extremely dangerous to handle as it is a heat and alpha radiation source,  it oxidizes very quickly when exposed to air, and the oxidized material is known to be very poisonous and to spontaneously ignite.
Plutonium formed in nuclear reactors comes mainly from the reaction of U-238 nuclei and neutrons, not deuterons.  (Plutonium was first synthesized using deuterons from cyclotrons.)

Natural plutonium is indeed rare in the earth's crust, but I would expect that elemental abundances (averages as well as concentrations) in asteroids to be different.
It's rare in the earth's crust because it has a short half-life (compared to, say, uranium).  Asteroids were formed from stuff containing the same supernova remnants as earth's crust, so while elemental abundances may vary, plutonium would still be rare, because however much of it there was 4 billion years ago, and however it was distributed, there's none left (to a first approximation; one part in a hundred-thousand or so, unless I've dropped a decimal).

So I'm rather expecting/hoping this is artificial.  Or perhaps there's some bizarre process that concentrates it somehow.  And it's a bit perplexing that no mention is made that plutonium is a pretty amazing find, not something one would *expect* might be there; possibly a backstory could be done that makes it common knowledge in-story where all those plutonium finds come from...

mlgunner on July 07, 2010, 01:01:02 am

Plutonium formed in nuclear reactors comes mainly from the reaction of U-238 nuclei and neutrons, not deuterons.  (Plutonium was first synthesized using deuterons from cyclotrons.)

Oops, sorry.  Believe it or not I do know the difference between deuterons and neutrons.  I had just read an article on the Berkley cyclotron experiments and bone head typo'ed.
I stand corrected.

SandySandfort on July 07, 2010, 07:55:59 pm
So I'm rather expecting/hoping this is artificial.  Or perhaps there's some bizarre process that concentrates it somehow.  And it's a bit perplexing that no mention is made that plutonium is a pretty amazing find, not something one would *expect* might be there; possibly a backstory could be done that makes it common knowledge in-story where all those plutonium finds come from...

Once again, nobody is expecting plutonium. It was simply one of the answers to "What elements have a specific gravity over 18?"

quadibloc on July 08, 2010, 01:57:07 am
What happens is that you bombard an atom of Uranium-238 with neutrons. That, of course, changes it to Uranium-239. That isotope is not fissionable, but it decays quickly by emitting an electron. This changes one of its neutrons to a proton. The result is Plutonium-239, a fissionable isotope.

Since Uranium-238 is the most common isotope of Uranium, much more common than the fissionable Uranium-235, breeder reactors greatly increase the amount of available nuclear fuel.

The most common isotope of Thorium is Thorium-232. If you hit that with neutrons, you get Thorium-233, which decays the same way that Uranium-239 does. The result is Uranium-233, another fissionable isotope of Uranium. Since Thorium is a more common element than Uranium, the Thorium breeder, a technology that has been experimented with in Germany and in India, would increase our energy resources even further.

 

anything