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PhysicsWorld Archive
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US to restart plutonium production

Author
  1. Peter Gwynne
Published
August 2005
Page(s)
9
Article Type
News and Analysis

[Icon] Full text (PDF, 87K)

Article summary

The US is to resume production of the intensely radioactive isotope plutonium-238. It will do so at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho, having relied on imports of the material from Russia for the past decade. 238Pu is not used in nuclear weapons, but is used to power spacecraft, including spy satellites, that cannot use solar power. According to Timothy Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Department of Energy (DOE), production will restart for reasons of national security. Analysts presume that such classified applications will involve both satellites and underwater spying devices.