# How does neutron absorption turn uranium into plutonium?

by ampakine
Tags: absorption, neutron, plutonium, turn, uranium
 P: 60 I keep reading that when a U-238 atom absorbs a neutron it turns into Pu-239. How does that happen? If I'm not mistaken Pu-239 is U-238 plus 2 protons and 2 electrons and minus 2 neutrons. When U-238 absorbs the neutron and becomes U-239 I can see that it can turn into Pu-239 if 2 neutrons decay into 2 protons + 2 electrons. Is that what happens? Are the electrons expelled like in regular beta decay or do they remain in the nucleus so that a neutral atom is formed rather than an ion?
 Admin P: 21,637 U (Z=92), Np (Z=93), Pu (Z=94) U238 + n => U239 => Np239 + ß => Pu239 + ß (leaving out the electron-associated antineutrinos that accompany beta emission) The ß particles slow down in the vicinity of the decay. Electrons are quite mobile and they generally migrate toward positive charges or up the electric potential. The U239, Np239 and Pu239 can also absorb neutrons and elevate A to 240, which can also absorb neutrons to A=241. Pu239 is more likely to fission upon neutron absorption. Np-240,241 appear to have low n-capture cross-sections, or the cross-sections are not measured, and the half-lives are relatively short, so the isotopes aren't around long enough to capture neutrons. See figures. Attached Thumbnails
 Admin P: 21,637 Here are the principal transuranics in a uranium/plutonium based fissile system. Isotope Half life (yr) Pu-236 2.858 Pu-238 87.7 Pu-239 24110 Pu-240 6561 Pu-241 14.29 Am-241 432 Pu-242 37500 Am-243 7370 from www.nndc.bnl.gov/chart/ Attached Thumbnails

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