Plutonium Puzzle Solved

The Plutonium Conundrum. ‘Scientists have gone a long way to solving a question about the nature of plutonium that has remained a mystery since the Manhattan Project. Plutonium behaves like no other element in nature. The bonding of its electrons causes its crystal structure to be uneven, similar to a mineral, and the nucleus is unstable, causing the metal to spontaneously decay over time and damage the surrounding metal lattice. First batches of the metal were too brittle to machine due to the mineral-like structure of the crystal. In order to make the metal machinable, the high-temperature, high-symmetry cubic structure of plutonium needed to be retained to room temperature.’

Plutonium Manufacture and Fabrication

Gallium in Weapons-Grade Plutonium and MOX Fuel Fabrication. ‘Gallium is used as an alloying element in the manufacture of plutonium pits in concentrations of up to 1 percent. (This information about gallium was declassified about one year ago.) Gallium at such concentrations presents various issues for MOX fuel fabrication and use. Therefore its concentration must be greatly reduced if the MOX option for plutonium disposition is pursued.’

Conceptual Design for Separation of Plutonium and Gallium by Solvent Extraction (PDF)

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