How is plutonium naturally made?
Plutonium generally isn’t found in nature. Trace elements of plutonium are found in naturally occurring uranium ores. Here, it is formed in a way similar to neptunium: by irradiation of natural uranium with neutrons followed by beta decay. Primarily, however, plutonium is a byproduct of the nuclear power industry.
How is uranium turned into plutonium?
To make plutonium we somehow have to add two protons to a uranium atom. The U-239, in turn, decays by emitting a beta particle to neptunium-239, which gives off another beta particle. Since each beta decay turns a neutron into a proton, these two beta decays suffice to turn a uranium atom into one of plutonium.
Can plutonium be found naturally?
Plutonium does occur naturally, but at very low concentrations. Indeed, it is all but unobservable, except by very sensitive modern analytical techniques. The reason that plutonium (and other transuranic elements) are so rare in nature is that being radioactive, they decay with a characteristic half-life.
Do nuclear reactors make plutonium?
Currently, the U.S. does not use plutonium fuel in its power reactors. Nuclear reactors that produce commercial power in the United States today create plutonium through the irradiation of uranium fuel. They might become different plutonium isotopes or different elements, such as uranium or neptunium.
Is it legal to buy plutonium?
No, no one is allowed to own plutonium. However due to the recent market in people and collectors liking elements and an effort to collect almost any material in the periodic table the market for depleted uranium is quite active.
What happens if I touch plutonium?
There is no health hazard from touching plutonium. Just wash your hands afterward so that any traces of it don’t accidentally get inside you. It presents zero risk outside of the body. Plutonium is only a hazard if it gets inside you in large quantities: inhaled, ingested, or absorbed.