Plutonium

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Plutonium
Name Plutonium
Symbol Pu
Atomic number 94
Atomic mass 244 amu
Normal state Solid
Classification Metallic
Crystal structure Monoclinic
Color silvery
Date of discovery 1940
Name of discoverer G.T.Seaborg, A.C.Wohl and J.W.Kennedy
Name origin Named after the planetoid Pluto.
Uses Fuel for nuclear reactors, as well as nuclear wepaons.
Obtained from Found in small doses in some uranium ores. Also manufactured by bombarding uranium with neutrons.


Plutonium is a silvery radioactive metal named after the planetoid Pluto. It is a man-made element discovered in 1940 after uranium-238 was bombarded with neutrons in a device called a cyclotron. Plutonium-238, as well as uranium-235 and uranium-233, are among the few materials whose atoms can be split (or "fissioned") to create a nuclear explosion, which releases massive amounts of energy almost instantaneously.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Plutonium is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. It was first made in significant quantities during the World War II Manhattan Project. Plutonium can also be used as a fuel in certain types of nuclear reactors where the fission process is controlled so that large quantities of energy are released more slowly to make steam and produce electricity. The split plutonium atoms become lighter elements such as cesium-137 and strontium, many of which are highly radioactive. These "fission products" are radioactive waste, although some are useful for nuclear medicine and other purposes.

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