Pellet of plutonium

Pellet of plutonium

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This image is part of the feature Top 50 Science

Credit: U.S. DEPT. OF ENERGY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: A pellet of plutonium-238, illuminated by the glow of its own radioactivity. Plutonium (Atomic number 94, symbol Pu) occurs in nature only in minute quantities that arise from the decay of Uranium- 238, the heaviest naturally-occuring element. All of plutonium's isotopes are radioactive; Plutonium-238 is used as a long-life power source in space applications. Pioneer-10, the interplanetary probe, is powered by a plutonium- 238 source. A second isotope, Plutonium- 239, is used as an explosive in atomic bombs and as a fuel in nuclear reactors. Plutonium is a highly toxic and carcinogenic (cancer forming) substance and is dangerous even at very low concentrations.

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Keywords: 238 pellet, chemical, chemistry, element, elements, from plutonium, glowing, plutonium, radioactive, radioactivity

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