Speeding up the half-life of plutonium

  • #1
RobinBanks
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TL;DR Summary
Want more information on speeding up the half-life of plutonium with neutrons
I know that it is possible to speed up the half-life of plutonium with neutrons. Who can tell me more about this? Thoughts on harnessing this power to decay plutonium so it's unusable in nuclear weapons?
 
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  • #2
RobinBanks said:
TL;DR Summary: Want more information on speeding up the half-life of plutonium with neutrons

I know that it is possible to speed up the half-life of plutonium with neutrons. Who can tell me more about this? Thoughts on harnessing this power to decay plutonium so it's unusable in nuclear weapons?
The strategy sounds like building a nuclear reactor fueled with Pu-239. By fissioning it in a reactor, it becomes unavailable for fissioning in a nuclear weapon.

Normally, one uses a fast neutron reactor/breeder reactor to convert U-238 into Pu-239 that is then consumed. Such a reactor ends up producing as much Plutonium as it consumes. This lets you burn the relatively plentiful and inexpensive U-238 instead of the relatively rare and expensive U-235. But I assume that it would be possible to skip the breeding part and just consume the Pu-239. That would not be economically attractive, of course.

I am no expert. Just reporting what I was able to Google up in a few minutes.
 
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  • #3
RobinBanks said:
I know that it is possible to speed up the half-life of plutonium with neutrons.
Can you tell us where you heard that?
 
  • #4
RobinBanks said:
Thoughts on harnessing this power to decay plutonium so it's unusable in nuclear weapons?
Remember that plutonium is virtually entirely manmade. There aren't deposits of plutonium in the ground that we dig up, we have to make it out of Uranium. While you can probably throw plutonium into a reactor to 'burn it off', the most effective way to keep plutonium from being used in nuclear weapons is to simply stop making it. Though that might be an issue if it's a natural byproduct of normal nuclear reactor operation.

Edit: Interestingly, there is apparently about 371 metric tons of separated plutonium in the world's 'civilian stockpiles', enough for about 46,000 nuclear weapons. Per this site: https://www.ntiindex.org/recommenda...Data Highlights,first NTI Index was published.
 
  • #5
RobinBanks said:
I know that it is possible to speed up the half-life of plutonium with neutrons.
It's not. Induced fission is not a radioactive decay.
Plutonium is only useful in weapons when it is made specifically for that purpose. You can make it unusable for weapons by putting it back into a nuclear reactor where some of it will fission and some of it will capture another neutron.
 
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