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NASA Restarts Plutonium Production

timothy posted about a year ago | from the yeah-but-now-it's-non-planetary dept.

NASA 139

Celarent Darii writes "In what looks like good news for the American Space program, NASA has restarted production of plutonium. According to the article, after the closure of Savannah Rivers reactor NASA purchased plutonium from Russia, but since 2010 this was no longer possible. The native production of plutonium is a step forward for the space program to achieve the energy density for long term space exploration."

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Zinc is by far the best element (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170257)

I also like Plutonium. It's just fun to say. Plu-to-ni-um.

No Plutonium is pretty useful. (5, Informative)

mozumder (178398) | about a year ago | (#43171515)

1g of Pu-238 produces .5 watts, which is really useful for long-lasting portable devices. There are some early pacemakers running from Pu-238 that are still operational.

For example, a few grams of Pu-238 could power an iPhone for a century without ever recharging...

(but would cost tens of thousands of dollars..)

As Seen On TV (2)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about a year ago | (#43170281)

Maybe if NASA is really good Santa will bring them some plutonium.

Re:As Seen On TV (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year ago | (#43170339)

LMOL

Re:As Seen On TV (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170565)

Maybe if NASA is really good Santa will bring them some plutonium.

Good? They cut down Pluto until it was a dwarf, and now are making this 'plutonium' which I can only assume is made from Pluto's corpse...

They'll be getting coal, indeed. Or something to power an RTG. One of the two.

Re:As Seen On TV (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170669)

You've never been with a woman, have you?

Re:As Seen On TV (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170987)

I don't think he's even seen another human being...

Re:As Seen On TV (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43171669)

Because they demoted Pluto, NASA only gets dwarfium now.
       

Re:As Seen On TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43172857)

Maybe if NASA is really good Santa will bring them some plutonium.

Good? They cut down Pluto until it was a dwarf, and now are making this 'plutonium' which I can only assume is made from Pluto's corpse...

That's Goofy.

Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170285)

Thanks Congress, for letting DoE and NASA do what they both agreed on. You're the best.

Re:Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170453)

Are you that fucking stupid?

Re:Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170933)

No, but congress is.
They thank you for your support.

1.21 Jiggawatts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170291)

And if space exploration doesn't work out anymore we can always get into arms dealing.

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#43170335)

You mean if Congress cuts off funding for space exploration, you can always sell the Pu and use the profits to pay for the rockets...
I don't think there is much there in Ryan's budget for NASA

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (1)

mug funky (910186) | about a year ago | (#43170399)

sell it to north korea. the stuff that goes in RTGs will not work in a bomb.

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170435)

NASA is trying to create Pu-238, which is non-fissile. Pu-239 is the type that is used in bombs.

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170695)

You don't need it to be fissile, you fucking dumbass. You need to pulverize it and stick some dynamite in the same bag.

Less spectacular to be sure but very effective. A terrorist's goal is to cause terror, not (necessarily) wide-spread destruction. One tending to follow the other does not mean that it is a prerequisite.

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170771)

The neocons have brainwashed you well. But in case you were confused, the GP was talking about arms, not NASA supplying radioactive material to terrorists. If the US government were to be making weapons that consisted of radioactive materials, they would be making actual nuclear weapons, not dirty bombs. And since the US government already has a shitload of nuclear weapons, I don't think they'll be contracting with NASA to buy more or requesting that NASA build some dirty bombs to give away to terrorists.

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171705)

Oh no! A terrorist has distributed a couple of grams of Pu238 over an area of tens of square meters, how will we ever measure the slight rise in radiation against background?

Re:1.21 Jiggawatts (4, Interesting)

budgenator (254554) | about a year ago | (#43172259)

Actually non-fissile material can be used as a X-ray/gamma reflector [wikipedia.org] , once thing get cooking good in the pit, the gama rays get reflected back to the secondary implode it and the excess neutrons which can transmute [wikipedia.org] some of the PU-238 into fissile PU-239, some of which is going to fission.

Wrong plutonium (2)

JSBiff (87824) | about a year ago | (#43170901)

The isotope of PU used by NASA is not the type you make bombs from. I guess you could freak people out by spreading some radioactive material with a 'dirty bomb' - but basically, dirty bombs are a psychological weapon more than an actual hazard - they get people to panic and hurt themselves. They don't do much or any direct damage.

They type NASA uses won't fission (which is what you need for a nuclear mushroom-cloud, city destroying type explosion). It only decays, and as it decays, it produces a lot of heat and radiation (which, in a spacecraft, gets converted to heat also). NASA uses the heat to create electric power using a device called an RTG - Radioisotope thermal generator, which directly converts heat to electricity without any turbines (although, much less efficiently than a steam or gas turbine, but that's not a big concern for NASA).

I Think We All Know the Real Reason..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170301)

It's so they can go back to 1955.

Re:I Think We All Know the Real Reason..... (4, Funny)

Looker_Device (2857489) | about a year ago | (#43170519)

Nonsense. NASA wouldn't want to go backwards now, not when they're on the verge of building their very own rocket that can take men into space!

If not at the Savannah River Site, then where? (4, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a year ago | (#43170319)

My first thought upon reading the summary was that if the Savannah River Site is closed, where are they making the new plutonium?

The answer, according to TFA, is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Re:If not at the Savannah River Site, then where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170369)

That's what they want you to believe, maaan!

In reality it was outsourced to North Korea.

Re:If not at the Savannah River Site, then where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170383)

Yeah, co-worker in Chattanooga mentioned that to me a few days ago. Apparently they've been working on it for a while.

now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (1, Troll)

Creepy (93888) | about a year ago | (#43170325)

I'm sure they'll say if solar isn't good enough, we should use (solar) wind power :P

Re:now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43170627)

What they are not telling us, is the government knows the sun will go out soon. So we need non-solar based energy.

Re:now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43170777)

Can you tack in a solar wind?

Without ripping your sail?

Re:now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year ago | (#43171169)

Yes, you do it by taking advantage of gravity.

Re:now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43171881)

That's not actually tacking, or sailing.

Re:now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (2)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year ago | (#43172731)

Using a solar sail is certainly sailing. You use light pressure instead of air pressure, and the construction of the sail is different as a result, but it is certainly sailing. And sailing into the direction that the light originates is tacking and can be done with a solar sail together with gravity. What's your problem with it?

Re:now wait for the anti-nuke crowd to complain... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43172445)

IIRC you can tack against light but not solar wind. Light reflects, solar wind sticks.

Dehabitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170329)

If the vehicle burns up on launch or explodes at a low altitude there goes the county, launch facility, what have you.
If it burn up in the upper atmosphere perhaps world wide cancer rates double or there goes any thing where the jet stream stears the fallout event for the next 6 months or so. So just saying... great for the space program though... parse... parse... ; )

Re:Dehabitation (4, Informative)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#43170353)

RTGs are designed to survive both the explosion and an uncontrolled impact with the ground.

Even if ruptured by the impact, plutonium is an immensely dense material - it's not easily scattered.

Re:Dehabitation (4, Informative)

mug funky (910186) | about a year ago | (#43170421)

it scatters in smoke just fine. look up "windscale fire"

Re:Dehabitation (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170631)

Mod parent informative. Plutonium burns readily, and oxide particles can be scattered widely. OTOH, RTGs are built to survive all kinds of launch failure, including pad fire and uncontrolled reentry. Also, the amount of Pu in an RTG is 1-4 kg, less than what has been released in all but the puniest atmospheric nuclear tests, which the humanity has survived rather well. So, no apocalyptic zombie hordes as a result of even a faulty RTG burnup.

Re:Dehabitation (5, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43170823)

you need more information. the pu-238 used in RTGs is in oxide form, bound with Oxygen 16 to absorb the occasional neutron (it is mostly an alpha emitter) that can be formed. So, the pu-238 is "already burned", in a sense, and in a form to be safer to humans.

Re:Dehabitation (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year ago | (#43170965)

Well, that is disappointing.

Re:Dehabitation (4, Informative)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#43170677)

The wiki article on that fire notes that it released large amounts of iodine-131. The fire was caused by attempting to produce plutonium, not by burning plutonium and the reports on its cause seem to be either uranium and magnesium/lithium cartridges.

Plutonium dioxide is already oxidized. It's chemically impossible for it to catch fire, and again, dense and heavy with a high melting point.

Re:Dehabitation (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about a year ago | (#43170425)

You'll be ok [youtube.com]

Re:Dehabitation (5, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#43170493)

An RTG falling out of the sky may hurt if it hits you on the head but other than that it's mostly harmless. Besides we already spread Pu all over the globe in the 60's and 70's, it's now a geological layer marking our entry into the nuclear age for millions of years to come..

Re:Dehabitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170581)

millions

Billions!

Re:Dehabitation (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43170791)

Hundreds. HL is 87 years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-238 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Dehabitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170981)

millions ... see the decay chain.

Re:Dehabitation (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43171187)

Stupid thorium.

Re:Dehabitation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171209)

Apollo 13's lunar module was carrying an RTG; it burned up over the Pacific. The RTG's container is still intact at the bottom of the Tonga Trench and is expected to remain so for at least ten half-lives. This was in 1970.

I think we'll be okay.

Hell, when one of the Transit sattelites failed to achieve orbit and burned up over Madagascar, it was using an early RTG design that didn't have adequate shielding; worldwide cancer rates didn't double.

I wonder (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year ago | (#43170341)

if Iran will impose sanctions on the United States...

Re:I wonder (1)

Stickerboy (61554) | about a year ago | (#43170489)

Iran should feel free to. The US economy wouldnt even blink. In fact, Iran needs the US and other advanced manufacturing economies for the high strength materials needed for its missile and nuclear material enrichment programs.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170767)

Iran gets it from China.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43172543)

whooosh ...

Re:I wonder (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170661)

if Iran will impose sanctions on the United States...

Perhaps Iran can sell Plutonium to NASA.

Re:I wonder (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#43172437)

if Iran will impose sanctions on the United States...

Perhaps Iran can sell Plutonium to NASA.

Let the free market sort it out. Whose business is it where NASA gets its raw materials from?

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170739)

The rest of the world should, and perhaps invad^H^H^H^H^Hliberate the USA and its natural resources, also.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171099)

Good luck with that, sparky.

UK Plutonium (4, Informative)

prefect42 (141309) | about a year ago | (#43170345)

Am I wrong in thinking the UK has a plutonium stockpile it really doesn't know what to do with? Simply not juicy enough?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21505271 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:UK Plutonium (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170509)

Different isotope of plutonium.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-238 - Fun stuff for space travel.

UK has a supply of a few different isotopes mixed together. Much less useful.

Re:UK Plutonium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170537)

http://www,glktgw.com/

Re:UK Plutonium (1)

dietdew7 (1171613) | about a year ago | (#43170563)

That comic raises some interesting points. It shows that fat is more energy dense than coal. Should we burn fat people for fuel? How will that affect CO2 in the atmosphere, are fat people a carbon sink? If I increase my belly rolls can I get carbon credits?

Re:UK Plutonium (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43170703)

Keep in mind all the carbon expelled to produce foods especially foods that make us fat.

Re:UK Plutonium (1)

lessthan (977374) | about a year ago | (#43171143)

I have a vision! The liposuction power plant! "Do you need to lose a few pounds? Is your electric bill out of control? Come down to Lipo-Electric, where we will suck out those pesky hard-to-lose pounds. We'll even pay you, in the form of electric credits! Lipo-Electric is not responsible for any missing family members."

Re:UK Plutonium (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#43170705)

Am I wrong in thinking the UK has a plutonium stockpile it really doesn't know what to do with? Simply not juicy enough?

It's the wrong isotope - bombs and reactors use Pu-239, while RTGs use Pu-238. The key difference is half-life and thus the heat generated, as the heat drives the thermocouples in the RTG to produce power. Pu-239 has a half life of 24 kyears, which means it decays slowly and thus doesn't produce much heat (relatively speaking). Pu-238 has a half life of 87 years, which means it emits considerable heat.
 
That short half life is also why NASA has been trying to figure out how to re-start production for some years now, since production was halted in 1988 a considerable quantity of the stockpiled fuel has essentially 'evaporated'. (And the stockpile wasn't that large to begin with.) Since the 'evaporated' fuel doesn't actually physically go anywhere, this means that you either have to use a bigger and heavier RTG or redesign the mission to use less power. (The first is obviously bad, and the second can paint you into a bit of a corner if the launch is delayed.) Processing the fuel to remove the decay products and restore energy density is... Very Expensive, so it's not an option (especially since it doesn't solve the problem of 'evaporation').

Re:UK Plutonium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171563)

Couldn't they just take one neutron out of the Pu-239 to make it Pu-238? They could use all those extra neutrons to make a bunch of deuterium at the same time, they could probably make a good quick profit on it.

Re:UK Plutonium (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about a year ago | (#43171807)

Isn't that like saying that you can turn lead into gold by just taking out a few electrons?

Re:UK Plutonium (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#43172531)

Isn't that like saying that you can turn lead into gold by just taking out a few electrons?

Slashdot, news for nerds, alchemy that matters.

Re:UK Plutonium (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43172673)

It's the wrong isotope - bombs use Pu-239, while RTGs use Pu-238.

There, fixed that for you. Reactors will readily burn Pu-239. They will also burn Pu-240, and Pul-238 and whatever other isotope. To fetch "usable" Pu from a reactor requires lots of effort, but to use it, not so much. You can just mix it with initial fuel and be done with it.

Only bombs use Pu-239 only. And it takes nasty, expensive processing (and lots of it) to fetch Pu-239 and avoiding Pu-240. It is one of the reasons for those leaks at Hanford. Pu-240 contamination makes Pu nukes go "fuzz fuzz", like North Korea's. (and this is ALL common knowledge - just read up on wikipedia)

http://news.slashdot.org/story/13/02/24/134208/six-of-hanfords-nuclear-waste-tanks-leaking-badly [slashdot.org]

since production was halted in 1988 a considerable quantity of the stockpiled fuel has essentially 'evaporated'.

That's only 25 years. Since you say half-life is 87 years, the amount evaporated is

1 - 0.5 ^ (25/87) = 18%

So 18% evaporated since 1988. That's not exactly much. It probably says something about how little was produced in the first place.

Two references for the price of one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170357)

Wait this reminds me of something from XKCD.
http://xkcd.com/1162/

Or we could just use it to power a time machine...

When will you finally.... (4, Funny)

FunkyLich (2533348) | about a year ago | (#43170441)

.... make up your mind?
You used to produce Plutonium and you saw it was good. But then man got greedy and raced upward to the skies and eat from the forbidden fruit. And complicated-gdp-involving-economy-formula was not happy and it convinced you that it was bad. And Plutonium was no more, Savannah Rivers dropped the Rivers and became a p0rn5tar and the fallen from grace NASA purchased plutonium from Russia. Now there is what looks like good news, the saviour will be born, the native plutonium-producer child of NASA. A step forward for the space program to achieve the energy density for long space exploration. After a jump backward, sort of.

I wish we just got rid of the jumps backward.

Re:When will you finally.... (1)

worf_mo (193770) | about a year ago | (#43170683)

Whatever you are taking, please check the dosage.

Why do this when... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#43170473)

We can just start reprocessing existing spent fuel and recover the material we need from that?

We will actually kill multiple birds with this... First, you get the material you wanted. Second, you don't create any new nuclear waste in the process, though it will change forms some and get somewhat smaller. Third, you can create new fuel assemblies and actually use the remaining fuel that is just sitting in pools of water right now. Not to mention that it will actually do something about the used fuel assemblies that are just sitting around waiting for something to happen.

Re:Why do this when... (2)

saintory (944644) | about a year ago | (#43170527)

Slashdot will correct me if I'm wrong but if memory serves me correctly, part of the reason we don't recycle spent fuel rods is because of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Treaties?) we signed in the 1970s. Apparently recycling old rods yields weapons-grade materials, even if their final purpose is not for weapons.

Re:Why do this when... (4, Informative)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43170889)

Commercial reactor waste has very little weapons-grade material in it, because in order to maximize production of weapons-grade Plutonium, you have to use a commercially inefficient fuel cycle to minimize the amount of spontaneously fissioning Plutonium isotopes being created through continued neutrox flux.

More succinctly: the more time U238 spends being bombarded in a reactor (thus, the more energy you create from the same fuel assembly), the more likely it is going to pass the "sweet spot" of Pu-239 into the undesireable Pu-240 or Pu-241 which poisons a prompt supercriticality which is created during a nuclear detonation. The reactors at Hanford that made the vast majority of weapons-bound Plutonium for the US weapons stockpile used somewhere around 6-month fuel cycles, where the average commercial reactor uses the fuel assembly for several years.

Re:Why do this when... (4, Informative)

thrich81 (1357561) | about a year ago | (#43170613)

The Pu in the fuel rods is not the right isotope, it is almost all Pu239 (U238 + neutron = Pu239, [after a stage as Np239]). NASA needs Pu238. What Pu239 is in there would be a real bear to separate from the Pu239 (more difficult than the separation of U235 from U238 because the mass difference is less).

Re:Why do this when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171233)

Hey, don't Pu-Pu 239, you insensitive clod!

Re:Why do this when..., not the right Pu (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | about a year ago | (#43170625)

repost to correct typo:
The Pu in the fuel rods is not the right isotope, it is almost all Pu239 (U238 + neutron = Pu239, [after a stage as Np239]). NASA needs Pu238. What Pu238 is in there would be a real bear to separate from the Pu239 (more difficult than the separation of U235 from U238 because the mass difference is less).

Re:Why do this when... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170773)

We can just start reprocessing existing spent fuel and recover the material we need from that?

We can't. The path to Pu-238 (the isotope used in RTGs) is Np-237 -(n)-> Np-238 -(beta-decay)-> Pu-238. Np-237 is a byproduct of neutron irradiation of U-238, but it must be separated and fabricated into target pins before further irradiation, otherwise your Pu-238 will be drowned in a mass of Pu-239 and higher isotopes, and there is no practical way to separate it. (Separating U-235 from U-238, three atomic units of difference, is difficult enough; Pu-238 and Pu-239 are a single atomic unit apart.)

Re:Why do this when... (5, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#43171005)

If you want to kill multiple birds, then wind turbines are the answer.

/ducks

Re:Why do this when... (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about a year ago | (#43171847)

If I had mod points you would get them :P

Oblig BTTF quote (1)

damonlab (931917) | about a year ago | (#43170507)

"I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by."

Back to the Future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170531)

"Now we can go.......back to the Future."

Libyans (1)

CDS (143158) | about a year ago | (#43170535)

At least we won't have to buy it from the Libyans any more. It's tough to get enough plutonium to reach 1.21 Jiggawatts at 88mph!

If Pluto is no longer a planet... (1, Funny)

devforhire (2658537) | about a year ago | (#43170561)

is Plutonium still considered an atom?

Re:If Pluto is no longer a planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170701)

Each atom is considered on a case-by-case basis, but in time they usually get downgraded into some sort of smaller-atom class.

It is gratifying to know (0)

The Shootist (324679) | about a year ago | (#43170609)

That the leftist brain lock concerning nuclear power has yet to rot NASA.

Re:It is gratifying to know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170743)

No the rightist brain lock concerning anything other than military spending did that decades ago.

UN Sanctions Against the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170765)

Oh no! It looks like the US government is planning to make weapons of mass destruction! We need to get UN sanctions enacted to ensure that NASA's production of plutonium doesn't begin which could cause the US to stockpile nuclear weapons...

Re:UN Sanctions Against the US (1)

JSBiff (87824) | about a year ago | (#43171097)

Wait, so you don't see any difference between a government lead by a bunch of religious extremists who put dogma before facts, human welfare and compassion, and. . . Iran? Wait. . . maybe the US shouldn't have nukes. . .

Plutonium 238 (4, Informative)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | about a year ago | (#43170821)

For the folks who don't know, we are talking about plutonium 238. This has a half live of 88 years so decays rapidly and produces a fair amount of heat. Using thermocouples this can be used to generate power with no moving parts. The decay route is alpha particles which are fairly easy to shield against. Your favorite bomb material plutonium 239 has a half life of 24000 years which leaves it safer to handle but not useful for thermoelectric generation

Let's hope they learned their lesson (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43170835)

We didn't stop producing plutonium just because it wasn't economically feasible (when did that stop the government from doing anything) -- the history of plutonium in the United States has been littered with accidents and costly, multi-decade cleanup projects that cost billions of dollars. See Rocky Flats, [wikipedia.org] et al.

Re:Let's hope they learned their lesson (1)

budgenator (254554) | about a year ago | (#43172587)

We didn't stop producing plutonium just because it wasn't economically feasible (when did that stop the government from doing anything) -- the history of plutonium in the United States has been littered with accidents and costly, multi-decade cleanup projects that cost billions of dollars. See Rocky Flats, [wikipedia.org] et al.

If it's any consolation, we have what not to do down pat.

NASA set us up the bomb! (0)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#43170895)

Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.

Re:NASA set us up the bomb! (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#43171031)

Man, at least get the meme right. Somebody set up us the bomb, not set us up the bomb. Sheesh!

Re:NASA set us up the bomb! (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#43171419)

Don't correct your UID elders, boy!

So we have Uranium, Neptunium, and Plutonium... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171339)

How long until we have Nemesisium or Nemecesium?

No, no, no, no, no, this sucker's electrical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171595)

...but I need a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need.

down to 3 or 4 RTGs (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#43171879)

I had heard they had less than 30 Kgs left and it took at least 5 kgs to run the older style RTGs. The newer Stirling RTGs increase efficiency some.

Plus the cost at $4M a kilo was becoming significant.

PRon Star (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43171969)

I thought Savannah Rivers was a pRon star.

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