What is plutonium?

What Does plutonium Mean

The plutonium is a radioactive substance that is characterized by its high level of toxicity . The term comes from the English word plutonium and its name is linked to the arrangement of chemical elements in the periodic table: plutonium follows uranium and neptunium , as does Pluto the planets Uranus and Neptune .

With atomic number 94 , it is a metallic chemical element that belongs to the set of actinides . Its symbol is Pu and it has highly stable isotopes , which are used as fuel and as explosives .

In the 1930s , the Italian chemist Enrico Fermi believed he discovered a new element that he named hesperium . However, it was actually a combination of krypton , barium, and other components. From the findings of Fermi , progress was made in research and finally the production and isolation of plutonium was achieved for the first time in 1940 thanks to a scientific team from the University of California at Berkeley ( United States ).
The most stable isotopes of plutonium are plutonium-239 (which takes 24,110 years to half - disintegrate ) and plutonium-242 (whose decay time reaches 373,300 years). Although it is considered the most dangerous nuclear fuel , plutonium is used in different ways.
The manufacture of atomic bombs , the development of thermoelectric plants and the production of pacemakers are some of the uses that are given to plutonium. It is important to bear in mind, however, that plutonium is very harmful to all living beings , so its handling must be extremely careful.
It is very common for the media to refer to plutonium as the most toxic substance that humans have ever discovered; Although experts point out that this is not accurate, they also do not deny its negative effects on our health . The chemical element radium , for example, can be around two hundred times more toxic than plutonium; its atomic number is 88, it is radioactive and rare, since its natural occurrence average is three million less than that of uranium.
The botulinum toxin , moreover, is one of the toxins organic exceeding the toxicity of plutonium in colossal. Returning to plutonium, its alpha radiation cannot penetrate the skin, although if ingested or inhaled it can affect internal organs. The entry of microscopic particles of this element is enough to put us at risk of suffering from lung cancer.

If the amount of plutonium that enters our body is considerable, a case of acute poisoning or even death can occur. Curiously, the statistical data do not contribute to the awareness of the dangers of this element, since there are no cases that indicate it as the cause of death, or they have not become sufficiently high in the media to attract attention.
Since plutonium has long been used in the creation of explosives and nuclear weapons, it is not uncommon for it to be released into the atmosphere in the context of certain tests or due to accidents in factories. As with other forms of pollution, plutonium does not leave the Earth forever, but returns to the ground after its release, thus expanding its negative action.
It should be noted that most of the plutonium that exists today comes from production in nuclear reactors, since it naturally occurs in much smaller quantities. After an accidental leak in a test, it rises to the atmosphere and can return via radioactive fallout, penetrating the ground and reaching groundwater.

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