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A radioactive element can emit energy and subatomic particles spontaneously.
Such an element is unstable and gives off atomic radiation to gain stability. Some examples are Uranium, Thorium, Plutonium, Neptunium, and Americium.
Some radioactive elements in the periodic table occur naturally in the Earth's crust, like uranium ores, whereas others are man-made. These elements are mainly used to generate electricity in nuclear power plants with the help of nuclear reactors. In addition to being a good power source, these elements can also cause serious problems when used to make nuclear weapons like an atomic bomb. An element like Uranium which is highly radioactive can be poisonous even in small quantities and can be used to make nuclear weapons.
Plutonium, a radioactive element given in the periodic table, also has such uses and dangers.
Plutonium, a silvery metal with an atomic number 94 and element symbol of Pu, was discovered as early as 1941 by Seaborg and his colleagues, but its existence was kept a secret until 1948 when they discovered that it could be used to make something as deadly as an atomic bomb. Plutonium naturally occurs in Uranium ores in the Earth's crust, but it is extremely rare. Due to its scarcity in the natural environment, Plutonium can also be made using Uranium in nuclear reactors. The fissioning of one atom of Uranium-235 produces neutrons which it reabsorbs to produce Plutonium and its isotopes.
Plutonium belongs to the family of actinides since it is a radioactive element. Even though it has a silvery color, it quickly gets oxidized when exposed to air. This Plutonium oxide can glow like embers when it burns because it is pyrophoric in nature. Therefore, unlike most metals, it is a fire hazard. Plutonium is an element that feels warm when touched due to alpha decay, and large pieces of it can produce enough heat to boil water.
Plutonium has six allotropes or different forms with different crystal structures and densities. The seventh allotrope of Plutonium exists at high temperatures. Plutonium is a difficult metal to work with since environmental conditions can easily change its crystal structure, so it has to be alloyed with other metals. Even though Plutonium has twenty radioisotopes, not even half are stable isotopes, but all are radioactive. Plutonium is a critical fissile element which means that it can sustain a chain reaction of nuclear fission.
Atomic number 94 of Plutonium shows that there are 94 protons and 94 electrons in all Plutonium atoms. The outer shell of the atom has two valence electrons.
The ability of Plutonium to produce energy is its most extensive use. Plutonium 238 is used to make electricity for space probes using a radioisotope thermoelectric generator which can be switched on when the probes are not receiving enough solar power. It is also used as a heat source in deep-sea exploration. Researchers also use Plutonium to make heavier elements like Flerovium.
One-third of the nuclear energy produced in nuclear power plants is obtained from Plutonium which makes it an important nuclear fuel. It is the primary nuclear fuel used in fast neutron reactors. Spent reactor fuel rich in Plutonium can be used to recycle material that would otherwise become harmful nuclear waste.
Plutonium 239 can be bombarded with slow neutrons to initiate a nuclear fission chain reaction, which has been used to make nuclear weapons.
Plutonium with atomic number 94 is a radioactive element with many uses and dangers. It is primarily produced as a by-product in nuclear reactors. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, almost 20 tonnes of Plutonium are produced each year in nuclear reactors.
Plutonium is highly toxic in nature and can accumulate in the bone marrow, increasing cancer risk in an individual. It should only be handled with proper equipment and precautions and never bare hands. It is dangerous to work with since it can undergo spontaneous fission. Due to its toxic nature, it is illegal to own more than one milligram of Plutonium by an individual.
The infamous nuclear bomb called "Fat Man," which was dropped over Nagasaki was the first Plutonium-based nuclear bomb used in war and was made in the Los Alamos national laboratory. The explosion yield it produced was equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT using only 13.6 pounds of Plutonium. It was also used to make the nuclear weapons used in the Trinity test. Even now, Plutonium is a critical element in many atomic bombs.
Plutonium is the second transuranium element to be discovered in the actinide group. One can find Plutonium in period seven and block F of the periodic table. It does not have a foul smell.
Plutonium is a hard and brittle metal having an atomic weight of 244, boiling point of 3,228 degrees Celsius. Unlike most metals, Plutonium has high viscosity near its melting point, and its density increases as it melts. But when inhaled, it has a metallic scent.
It shows poor conduction of both heat and electricity. It is also not magnetic in nature as the electrons in its outer shell can vary. Plutonium exhibits colorful oxidation states in aqueous solutions. The oxidation states can take on. Solution form of Plutonium is more likely to form critical mass than solid Plutonium. The amount of Plutonium required for uncontrolled nuclear fission chain reactions is about one-third the amount of Uranium-235, which shows the highly radioactive nature of Plutonium.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 61 facts about Plutonium explained for kids in a simple way then why not take a look at phosphorus facts or 3 magnetic metals?
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