Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Historic Sample Of Bomb-grade Plutonium Discovered

Date:
March 5, 2009
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists in Washington state are reporting the surprise discovery of the oldest known sample of reactor-produced bomb-grade plutonium, a historic relic from the infancy of America's nuclear weapons program. Their research also represents the first demonstration of how radioactive sodium can be used as a tool in nuclear forensics.

This is a recovered glass bottle containing several hundred milligrams of plutonium.
Credit: The American Chemical Society

Scientists in Washington state are reporting the surprise discovery of the oldest known sample of reactor-produced bomb-grade plutonium, a historic relic from the infancy of America's nuclear weapons program. Their research also represents the first demonstration of how radioactive sodium can be used as a tool in nuclear forensics.

In the new study, Jon Schwantes and colleagues note increased concern about the possibility of terrorists smuggling radioactive materials to make illegal nuclear weapons. As a result, scientists are stepping up efforts to identify and track the source of these radioactive materials using the advanced tools and techniques of a new field called "nuclear archaeology."

The scientists describe efforts to determine the origin of an unknown sample of plutonium (Pu) found in 2004 in a bottle at a waste burial trench at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington. Hanford is the earliest location for U.S. plutonium production for nuclear weapons and now the focus of a massive environmental cleanup effort due to high levels of radioactive waste that remain at the site.

Using multiple pairs of "parent" Pu and "daughter" uranium (U) isotopes, the researchers were able to correct for chemical fractionation that occurred as a result of repackaging in 2004 and determine the age of the sample. Using this technique, they estimated that the Pu in the sample had been separated from U and fission products in 1944, making it the oldest known sample of bomb-grade plutonium produced in a reactor. The only older known samples of Pu-239 were produced by the late Glenn Seaborg and his associates in the beginning of the 1940's when the existence of the element was first confirmed and characterized.

The study identified the Clinton reactor in Oak Ridge, Tenn., as reactor of origin for this material, by comparing reactor burnup modeling results with measurements of minor Pu isotopes. These results were also supported by a series of historical documents tracking the material's movement from Oak Ridge and the processing at Hanford. "Aside from the historical significance of this find, this work provides the public a rare glimpse at a real-world example of the science behind and power of modern-day nuclear forensics," the scientists note.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Schwantes et al. Nuclear Archeology in a Bottle: Evidence of Pre-Trinity U.S. Weapons Activities from a Waste Burial Site. Analytical Chemistry, 2009; 81 (4): 1297 DOI: 10.1021/ac802286a

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Historic Sample Of Bomb-grade Plutonium Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302130224.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2009, March 5). Historic Sample Of Bomb-grade Plutonium Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302130224.htm
American Chemical Society. "Historic Sample Of Bomb-grade Plutonium Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302130224.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins