Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

National Security Cuts Into NASA's Plutonium

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the get-out-the-oars dept.

Space 76

cleveland61 writes " is reporting that an "undisclosed national security agency" is being assigned 7 Kg of NASA's 16 Kg supply of Pu 238. With a half life of 90 years Pu 238 is used mainly used in cases where batteries won't do here on earth. (Pacemakers, deep sea diving suits,etc.) It also provided the fuel for the Cassini Probe. My question is; Who is getting it and what are they using it for? Please tell me its Doc Brown looking for his 1.21 jigawatts!"

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

fp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3947289)


Think small (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3947290)

That's quite a bit of energy in that there chunk.

Think small. This isn't likely being used to make bombs or what have you. Materials with a much shorter half life are used for that.

This is more likely for spying equipment.

The question is - where do we suddenly need thousands of covert transmitters?

Re:Think small (3, Informative)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947804)

Pu 238 not likely to be used for a bomb since it won't fission, Pu 239 and U 235 are used for that.
Might be usefull for tamping though but U 238 is lots cheaper.

The half life of Pu 239 is 25,000 years and I have heard that it is warm to the touch. Pu 238 would be still warmer yet.

The half life of U 235 is 730 million years.

If fissile isotopes had short half lives we wouldn't have bombs or reactors. The fissile material would decay away too fast.

Re:Think small (2)

Royster (16042) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947967)

The half life of Pu 239 is 25,000 years and I have heard that it is warm to the touch. Pu 238 would be still warmer yet.

I hear it's even warmer if you hold it to your genitals, but you won't catch me testing any of these claims.

Shortlived isotopes are used.... (2)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949428)

The fusion material in most of our nuclear weapons is Hydrogen 3, Tritium, it actually has a half life of 12.32 years. So most warheads get a regular refresh every few years. Don't you remember the big stink people were making a few years back when the US stopped tritium production, the military types were worried the Russians would take advantage of our "Decreased state of readiness" since we were letting the tritium in our warheads degrade. Course they restarted tritium production a few years later.

Re:Shortlived isotopes are used.... (2)

rjh (40933) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949872)

Bzzt--thanks for playing. Tritium is used to boost the initial fission yield; it's not used in the secondary stage.

A different set of compounds (lithium hydrides?) undergoes fusion, but this isn't the terminal stage of the nuke. The fusion is almost purely an incidental product--they're not looking to liberate energy from the fusion, they're looking to liberate neutrons. Specifically, real freakin' energetic neutrons which can induce fission in the U-238 shell surrounding the nuke. So essentially, there are three stages: a small fissile device at the core, then a small fusion stage, and then a really honkin' huge fissile stage which amounts for >90% of the liberated energy.

In fact, some of the early H-bombs used no hydrogen at all. If you get U-235 in the same shape as a softball, it'll spontaneously go supercritical; but if you get a cylinder of U-235 with a diameter slightly less than a softball, it can be arbitrarily long without going supercrit. To make it go supercrit, you use explosives to implode its shape, at which point it goes supercrit. The U.S. tested a 500kt "H-bomb" which was one of these purely fissile (i.e., "A-bomb") designs. ... Why do nuke designers prefer fission reactions to fusion ones? When uranium splits, it does so by breaking into big and heavy atomic fragments (+46 charge). These atomic fragments carry away the majority of the reaction energy and dump it almost immediately as heat. By comparison, when hydrogen fuses to helium, the end product is a very light atomic nucleus and the majority of the energy of the reaction is liberated as neutrons, which can travel for quite some distance before giving up their energy.

Basically, fission has a lot more bang for the buck.

If you really want to know more of the physical details behind nukes, check out FAS (here [] ) and the Bremsstrahlung Effect.

Re:Shortlived isotopes are used.... (1)

680x0 (467210) | more than 12 years ago | (#3951938)

Wow! What an amazingly distorted explanation. So, what you're saying then, is that the only reason that turbojet engines move the plane through the air is the fan blades acting as propellers moving the air from front to back. The only reason the air is mixed with fuel is to power the fan blades. And planes used to go a lot faster back in the days when propellers were bigger and weren't housed inside a jet engine (after all they'd be able to move a lot more air).

Anyway, I thank you for brightening my day with your humor. :-)

Re:Think small (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3950656)

One think it's probably not being used for is weapons. As this link 5080951.htm

indicates. In short

"We have to learn how to predict the properties of plutonium as it ages in the weapons, and to do that we need plutonium that's been around as long as plutonium has been on the planet," said Joe Martz, manager of Los Alamos' Enhanced Surveillance Program.

The crucial experiment involves "spiking" samples of nuclear weapons plutonium, the isotope known as Pu-239, with 7.5 percent of the plutonium-238 isotope, which decays about 300 times faster. Plutonium-238, because of its high decay rate, is normally used to provide electrical power for deep-space probes such as the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn."

Perhaps (1)

chewedtoothpick (564184) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947299)

Perhaps they are using it to experiment with cold fusion some more. That or they are creating some special bomb... (kill osama bin laden)

Re:Perhaps (3, Informative)

TamMan2000 (578899) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947567)

Pu 238 is a large molecule, fusion requires small molecues combining into larger ones. The only use for Plutonium in a fusion devise is as a "fuse" used to set of a big hot fusion reaction (H-Bomb).

Along the bomb line...
we already have a lot of nuclear material stockpiled in bomb form...

Re:Perhaps (1)

Thauma (35771) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949045)

And to think, I thought PU 238 was an isotope of an atom this whole time... No wonder I did bad in chemistry.

Re:Perhaps (1)

TamMan2000 (578899) | more than 12 years ago | (#3950228)

your right, I meant atoms...

but technically all atoms that are not bonded to other atoms are molecules too.

and every atom is an isotope.

Just a guess (3, Funny)

Wrexen (151642) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947304)

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the "undisclosed national security agency" is, in fact, the National Security Agency []

Re:Just a guess (3, Informative)

David Frankenstein (21337) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947652)

More likely the NRO. They are the ones in charge of the sats.

Re:Just a guess (2)

yzquxnet (133355) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947985)

But the guys I spoke to told me that there was no such agency as the national security agency. What gives?

hah, I made a funny. okay, not really.

Re:Just a guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3948552)

lol... good one.

Re:Just a guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3949449)

In keeping with dad and raygun, I would guess that it went to some buddies of gwb's and that they will sell it to either china or Osama.
We never learn our lessons

Could it be... (1)

chewedtoothpick (564184) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947316)

Could the "Undisclosed National Security Agency" be the Men in Black? LOL!

Re:Could it be... (1)

E1v!$ (267945) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947595)

Are you kidding? These are the guys that gave us velcro! They don't need no stinkin' plutonium. They probably have a Mr. Fusion laying around somewhere.

A typical slashdot day by poopbot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3947324)

Credits: anonymous

"Mmmm... this feels good..." I sighed.
"Shhh!" hissed Hemos. "We don't want Mark to come in here!"

True. Having Hemos's 16 year-old brother walk in on us at that moment would not be good. I didn't think he'd be too cool with finding his 12 year-old brother lying naked with me, holding my 11 year-old dick in his hands. But, in all fairness, my hands were eagerly playing with Hemos's dick and balls at that moment, too.

Hemos's mom and dad had gone to the drive-in, leaving his big brother in charge. In our favor, leaving Mark in charge pretty much guaranteed that we weren't to bother him, and in turn, he'd leave us alone unless we were making too much noise or breaking something. Well, we were being careful to keep quiet because we very much wanted to be left alone.

We were in Hemos's twin bed, snuggled under the covers with our underwear pushed down to the foot of the bed. The only illumination in the room came from the faint sliver of light that crept in under his bedroom door. Even in the shadows I could make out the shape of my friend; about my height, but heavier. (Hell, I was such a skinny runt that everyone was heavier than me.) Hemos had a crew-cut of white-blonde hair, and was only starting to sprout some pubic hair. But, you had to feel for it because what little pubic hair he possessed was as blonde as the short hair on his hea and could not yet be seen by even a minimal distance.

And, I was happily feeling for it, running my hands all over Hemos's slightly larger erection and fondling his larger testicles while he courteously stroked my dick. I could tell that he didn't possess the same enthusiasm for cockplay as I did, unless you count his appreciation for the attention devoted to his member. And I knew that my willingness to satisfy his sexual urges was one of the few reasons he even had me sleep over at his place. But, I didn't let that stop me from finding pleasure in the handling of his meat.

I'd recently had an "introduction", of sorts, to seeing what someone could do with a man's dick with their mouth. While spending the night with my Uncle Jerry a couple weeks before, while I watched in secret, I was treated to a visual display of the intensity and unabashed pleasure that my uncle had obviously enjoyed having another man suck on his cock. From that moment on, I had a yearning that I needed to satisfy. With who was my only question.

I guess it was time to find out.

"I... heard that sucking on it feels even better than playing with it." I ventured.

In the darkness, I could feel a slight jerk of revulsion in Hemos's body.

"Put a dick in your mouth?" he croaked.

"Well, " I countered, my heart pounding with anxiety, "I think adults do it all the time."

"Well, I'm not gonna do it!" Hemos hissed. "That's homo stuff!"

"Yeah." I sighed disappointedly, while still playing with Hemos's dick. "I guess it is."

As I stroked his shaft in a steadier, milking rhythm, I could sense Hemos's breaths getting quicker. His manipulations of my dick began to falter as I could feel his body tense beside me. His hips rocked slightly in time with my pumping of his cock, and I cradled his balls tenderly in my other hand. When any attentions to my own dick has completely ebbed, I knew what was about to happen, so I picked up the pace just a bit more while lending a touch more pressure in my grip. Finally, Hemos's breath caught in his throat, and he turned his face fully into his pillow to stifle the moans that broke free as his cock pulsed and throbbed in a dry orgasm within my hands. I continued to massage him and didn't release him from my grasp until his member had gone fully soft.

"Man," sighed Hemos dreamily after finally catching his breath. "You are so good at that, CmdrTaco."

At least I had something to be proud of, I guess, as my friend gently withdrew himself from me and rolled onto his back.

Even though I was only eleven, the irony of Hemos's words and actions were not lost on me. My sucking on him would have been a "homo" thing, but beating him off was okay. Go figure. Within the few moments I had spent mulling over the irony of the thoughts, Hemos had drifted off to sleep. I slipped out from under the covers and down to the cool floor so I could masturbate without shaking the bed. As I toyed with my own dick, I imagined Hemos's cock in my mouth, wondering if the chance would ever really come. Finally, my own climax washed over me, and I got back into the bed.

I don't sleep real well to begin with, and even worse when I'm not in my own bed. And now, with the thoughts of a dick so close to me, as well as the vivid memories of secretly seeing man-to-man cocksucking pleasure floating through my prepubescent, sex-filled brain, I was not about to fall asleep anytime soon. Lying awake until around 11:30, I finally decided that I needed to do something to satisfy my hungers, or I'd never be able to let it rest. The trick was in finding the guts to follow through.

I knew that whenever Hemos fell asleep, he pretty much stayed asleep. So, since he was sleeping soundly, lying on his back, I took a deep breath and gingerly ducked my head under the covers and scooted down as much as I could to the foot of the bed. That put my head right at Hemos's hip level. I raised my head and upper body to help create a tent over his crotch. Sniffing around, I found the faint scent of young penis flesh. I inhaled deeply, both in the love of the scent, and in an attempt to slow my pounding heart. I opened my mouth wide over the area where I sensed Hemos's dick to be, and lowered my mouth squarely over his soft cock and balls until I could feel his sparse pubic hairs tickling my cheek. I finally had a dick in my mouth! I just wasn't sure what I'd do if Hemos woke to find his "homo" friend in this situation.

I remained like that for a long moment, partially in fear of trying anything more, and partly to savor the moment. I carefully let my tongue start to explore his tender penile flesh, enjoying the texture. Then came the excitement that welled within me as his cock began to respond to my attentions and harden in my warm and wet mouth! Butterflies seemed to explode in my stomach and drown out my heartbeat as I felt his dick get to its full size in my mouth. Concentrating in that dark environment, I found myself beginning to identify the shape of his member by taste. The shaft actually seemed to taste different than the head, and the thin skin of his scrotum seemed to harbor another distinct flavor.

I started to softly suck on Hemos's dick, becoming fascinated at how it just seemed to, well, 'fit' in my mouth... how the head lent itself to the back of my tongue, and how the shaft rested between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. My excitement was so great that my own recently satisfied dick was responding again, inviting me to play. I was sucking a cock, and I was in heaven!

However, within seconds, Hemos seemed to get restless. In fear, I quickly pulled my mouth away from Hemos's candy stick and held still. The covers rustled, and pulled back.

"Whatcha doin'?" mumbled Hemos.

"I... uh... was trying to find my shorts down here," I lied, starting to fumble near our feet. Well, partial lie, because it was a good idea to do so, anyway, and now was as good a time as any.

"Oh, yeah," said Hemos. "Get mine, too, willya?"

"S-sure" I stammered, relieved.

I located the two items of clothing and scooted back up towards the head of the bed. Thankfully, our underwear were pretty easy to distinguish since Hemos wore boxers, and I wore briefs. We both fumbled to put them on in the dark, and then settled back into the bed. I lay stiffly on my back, still harboring some fear that my friend discovered more than he let on, but Hemos simply rolled onto his side, facing away from me, and promptly went back to sleep.

And, here I was again, so close to my fantasies, yet still so far.

And very much awake.

After hearing the clock in the hallway chime midnight, I finally got up to go to the bathroom. Figuring it was late enough not to be an issue, and since even if Hemos's parents were home that they would be in their own bedroom downstairs, I didn't bother to slip on my pants for the short trip down the hall. I walked softly to the bedroom door, and then stepped out into the hallway, illuminated dimly by a bare-bulb night light. I walked past big brother Mark's door to the bathroom at the end of the hall and turned on the light as I shut the door.

Peeing into the toilet, I looked up at my reflection in the large mirror and smiled slyly to myself. I actually sucked on a dick, even if for only a moment! At that moment I was Rob Maldo, secret agent double-O-seven, who could sneak in and suck a dick, and sneak away without being caught!

I flushed the toilet and switched out the light as I headed back down the hall. Slipping past Mark's door once again, the door flew open, and a hand covered my mouth while a muscular arm snapped around my waist and drew me into the room. Squirming in the arms of Hemos's athletic older brother was a waste of effort, and he only squeezed harder until I settled down.

"You'll keep quiet if you know what's good for you,' growled Mark into my ear. "You gonna be quiet?"

I nodded. Mark let go of my mouth and reached over to close his bedroom door, the other hand and arm still holding me firmly with my feet off the ground. I heard something click, and recalled, and not without a certain amount of childish fear, that Mark had a lock on his door.

The room had a yellowish glow from the large lava lamp next to Mark's bed. He took me over to the bed and tossed me face down onto it, kneeling next to me. I thought briefly about trying to get up and run, but to where?

When I felt Mark's hands on me again, I was determined to fight him off, but I was no match for him as he flipped me onto my back and straddled me, sitting squarely on my upper chest, his knees pinning my shoulders and my arms locked between his legs. I gazed up at his lean, muscled torso, his stern blue eyes under a tussled mane of reddish-blonde hair. I could feel the soft fabric of his boxers against my chin.

"Can't get up, can ya?" he said, grinning down at me, all snide and victorious.

I struggled a bit, more out of obligation, but knew it was no use. Mark was just too big for me.

"Whatsamatter?" huffed Mark. "You too weak to fight? Or, maybe you just like laying there, sniffing dicks?"

I started squirming a bit harder, but Mark's legs only clamped tighter. At least he had scooted down a bit, and was no longer suffocating me with his weight on my chest.

"Yeah! Maybe you're a homo-boy who just likes sniffing dicks. Maybe you wanna sniff my big dick?"

I didn't care for where this was going, and I wasn't too comfortable with the tone of Mark's voice. But, I was also not being given much of a choice in the matter. Especially when Mark reached into the fly of his boxers and pulled out his cock.

"Here you are, homo-boy... a nice, fresh big-man dick!" grinned Mark fiendishly. "Ain't it a beaut?"

He held it out for me, then leaned forward and started to rub his cock on my face, tracing my cheeks and nose with the bulbous head. His testicles soon followed his dick through the opening, until they were dangling on my chin, the coarse pubes tickling my lips. Their faint musky scent began to fill my nostrils.

"CmdrTaco's just a little dick-faced homo-boy, ain't he?" sneered Mark, sliding his cock across my face. "I saw you in there, your head under the covers. What were you doing? Giving my little brother a blow job?"

I didn't answer. I was at once shocked at the thought of having been discovered, and confused by Mark's remark. I then guessed that he meant sucking a dick was called a 'blow job'. But... you're not blowing, you're sucking, and-

"You were, weren't you, you little homo!"

It was obvious what had happened; that Mark had looked in on us to find my head under the blankets. I thought I had sensed a miniscule change in the light, but assumed that to be part of my excitement. That must have been what woke Hemos up so suddenly.

"So, maybe you aren't just dick-faced, " he said, rubbing his cock on my face again. "Maybe you're a dick sucker!" He leaned forward, mashing his hairy ball sack into my nose, then pulling back to trace my features again with his member. But, even as Mark taunted me, treating his cock as a threatening weapon, there was something else happening.

He was getting a boner.

And as I closed my eyes, I could feel his cock thickening against my face. I could sense the heat of his hardening dick directly on my flesh. And, I found I was enjoying the sensations of this older cock against my face. There would soon be no way of hiding the fact that I was getting excited, too.

"So, dick-sucker-CmdrTaco... you're gonna suck my dick, now."

My eyes sprung open to see Mark's fully erect cock pointing at my face. While it wasn't huge (I had already seen 'huge' with my Uncle Jerry), it was still big enough to scare me.

And excite me to no end.

"Open wide, homo-boy."

Without another moment of hesitation, or taking my eyes off of Mark's sleek tool, I opened my mouth as wide as I could and watched as he leaned down and slid that beautiful cock into my waiting mouth. I then settled my tongue against the bottom half of his shaft while I could feel the upper half press against the roof of my mouth. Its texture was soft, yet hard; smooth, yet distinct.

"There," he sighed. "Now, you have a real dick to suck on. Now, get started, suck-boy!"

It was so much bigger than Hemos's young dick, I wasn't sure if I could get enough suction worked up to suck on it. It was then that I found out what sucking a cock is really all about: friction.

Mark held the base of his dick to guide himself and started to pump into my mouth, sliding his dick in and out of my salivating lips. He would slip in precariously between my teeth until he was near to choke me, then pull back out until the base of the bulbous head was just close to popping free from my lips, held in place by the suction of my mouth. Then he... we... would do it all over again... over and over... and gloriously over again.

"Oh, you are good, CmdrTaco," he moaned softly. "You suck cock real good."

I don't know about that; it seemed he was doing all the real work. But, I wanted it to be good. I wanted to have this dick in my mouth. And I wanted it again and again. I was definitely enjoying the oral sensations as his near-adult dick worked back and forth in my hungry mouth, and I wanted so much to please him so he would want my mouth again.

Mark placed his other hand on the top of my head to steady me as his thrusts became a little more erratic. His breath quickened, and I could sense that he was trying hard not to ram himself all the way down my throat and choke me. He was making little grunts with each thrust, and I could feel his dick turn to stone in my mouth when, in a mix of fear and excitement, I suddenly recalled what would happen next.

"Oh, baby... oh, fuck..."

Mark's movements got all quick and jerky. I was almost afraid to breathe.

"OHHHH!!!" he moaned, pulling out of my mouth and letting loose with a burst of white goo that seemed to splatter all over as he pumped his dick with his fist. My head still held firmly in his other hand, the warm liquid flew partly into my still open mouth, and all over my nose and eyebrows. I swallowed briefly, not sure whether to gag or hope for more, tasting fully the salty and musky liquid, then opened my mouth once more as Mark stuck his creaming cock back in and worked the thick fluid throughout my young mouth.

I sucked until Mark went soft and withdrew his spent dick. He smiled down at me, obviously proud of what he had done. He finally got off of me (good thing since I thought my arms were going to fall off) and stood there for a moment, an interesting picture with his hands on his hips, and his drained cock and balls hanging out of the fly of his plaid boxers. I just lay there with his juices clinging to my skin, wanting to do it all over again.

Mark bent down and picked up a t-shirt, and proceeded to wipe the remainder of his goo off my face. Finished with that, he tossed the shirt into a hamper and walked over to his bedroom door to unlock it as he tucked his manhood back into his underwear.

"You better get back into Hemos's bed before mom and dad find you here," he said softly.

I reluctantly got off Mark's bed and walked to the door. As I was about to exit, he reached out to stop me briefly.

"You liked that, didn't you, homo-boy?"

I nodded, not sure where he was going with this inquiry.

"Your first taste of cum?"

I shrugged, then nodded again.

"If you're good, maybe I'll let you suck my dick again some time, CmdrTaco. Now, get your ass out of here before I kick it."

I stepped out of the room and felt the door close harshly behind me. I could still taste traces of Mark's cum in my mouth, could still sense the friction of his cock on my tongue. I smiled in remembrance.

I was hooked.

- posted by poopbot: lovely snot! wonderful snot!

MogZMJHgpn Post #798

War on drugs? (1)

DJayC (595440) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947358)

In the meantime, the Department of Energy will continue to buy Plutonium 238 from Russia. Wahlquist said the Department of Energy will buy 1 kilogram of the non-weapons grade Plutonium from the Russian government this year. The U.S. plans to buy another 5 kilograms of the material from Russia in 2003 and additional quantities in 2004 and beyond.

Sounds like a big nasty drug deal to me. I heard we can get a good deal on the "weapons grade" as opposed to the "non-weapons grade" from China.

Re:War on drugs? (2)

neksys (87486) | more than 12 years ago | (#3948802)

Is a kilo a lot of plutonium to be purchasing? I don't know how much a "lot" is, I don't know much about it period. Reading it like that, though, it sort of seems like, "I'll be buying 7 fries from McDonald's this year, even though I've got my own potatoes and a deep frier.". *shrug*

I have some TIPS.... (1)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947421)

Well, the TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) program is recruiting meter readers [] , and may recruit postal workers now that the USPS, which initially balked, is considering it []

Now, I betcha' your meter reader -- or postman -- could be persuaded, in the interests of national security, of course, to lend his uniform and id to a gent who knows how to install a covert sattelite phone with a big sensitive microphone. Who knows how to hide it behind your meter, perhaps.

Maybe they'll slap a quick metal patch over it, maybe they'll slid it under the siding on your house, but it'll real inaccesable, as they'll know it's gonna be powered for 90 years on that pinch of plutonium.

I know why! (2, Funny)

SecretFire (578177) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947460)

You see, all of the slightly-moderately paranoid types are already concerned about the government, but the "aliens are here" crowd haven't really been thrown a bone recently by government. Can you name a recent major occurance for this group? I tihnk we just have some sympathetic dude in the NSA who wants all the conspiracy shows to keep their ratings up.

two answers (3, Interesting)

Apreche (239272) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947538)

the easy answer is they are making a few nukes.

the answer that took a little thought is that indeed the NSA needs plutonium to make an unbeatable UPS for its large powerful computer systems. This way the will never have a power out, meaning they can spy on everyone 24/7 365.

Re:two answers (2, Informative)

dramaley (20773) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947750)

Nukes use Pu-239, not Pu-238 as this article was about.

Re:two answers (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 12 years ago | (#3948885)

Can you give me the physical equation that shows pu-239 is fissionable?

Re:two answers (3, Informative)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 12 years ago | (#3950469)

My chart shows that Pu238 is an alpha emitter, and is subject to spontaneous fission. A I recall, the thermoelectric generators use the heat given off by the Pu238 to generate power with what are essentially thermocouples.

Nukes could be valid, maybe. (1)

The_Guv'na (180187) | more than 12 years ago | (#3950069)

Well, nukes or "Dirty Bombs". Dubya's popularity is falling, he needs another "attack" so he can push through a few more anti-terrorist [i.e. privacy/liberty] laws. Maybe I'm just too cynical of human nature but I wouldn't be suprised to see this used against the people of America, or even England, just to drum up more support for the war for oil^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hon terror.

Don't forget that Dubya wanted to invade Afghanistan long before 9/11, and those attacks were a "Don't fuck with us!" from the middle-eastern oil barons, in bed with Saudi Bin Laden Inc.

Think about it.


UPS? Genius. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3952054)

I suddenly remember a news story about how the CIA's computer systems were out for a lengthy period of time due to power problems. Mm, was it 20/20 or something? Bah, I forget.

However, if they are making a UPS, damn. *snicker* That's just sheer coolness.

Same thing (5, Interesting)

benh57 (525452) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947556)

The undisclosed agency is likely using it for the same thing NASA does - RTGs to power satellites. RTGs could help power secret spy sats just as well as science sats. They provide quite a lot of power and with them you don't need the solar arrays.

Re:Same thing (5, Interesting)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947624)

I agree. And without the solar panels, these satellites will be mostly invisible until they start transmitting. So you have a back-up communications or spy array just in case China starts taking pot-shots at our birds with a laser.

Re:Same thing (1)

tg_schlacht (570380) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947633)

I think that you've probably come close to the truth with your answer.

Re:Same thing (2)

David Frankenstein (21337) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947636)

And without solar panels, you can make a stealth sat so the baddies on the ground won't know it's overhead.

Re:Same thing (5, Interesting)

CTalkobt (81900) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947813)

Actually what makes the parent post intriguing is this.

Currently the US has a set of Satillites that can form a communications relay and then beam messages to the ground.

Suppose we have some black birds ( Satillites ) that operate solely on Nuclear Power with passive ( eg visual / thermal etc ) pickup of information / images. Now, let's broadcast the data to the communications relay and send it down encrypted.

Since the birds doing the oberservation are "dark" - there only encryptions being laterally to earth's orbit their flight paths wouldn't be known.

Hmm..... *looks up in the sky anxiously*

Re:Same thing (1)

morpheus 2001 (594709) | more than 12 years ago | (#3962971)

But, doesn't the government have to disclose the paths of military and spy satellites to whomever tracks those things to insure that (current and future) commercial and military satellites don't go bump in the night? My understanding was that they did not have to disclose its purpose, just its flight path.

Then again, if my premise is true, we could always put up a new sattelite in place of an existing one and not tell anybody because that flight path is already known.

Re:Same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3963134)

They could link to the relay sat with a laser so they would be just about undetectable.

Re:Same thing (3, Funny)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947670)

Oh great, so when an "unspecified" agency launches an "unspecified" payload from an "unspecified" rocket in the middle of an "unspecified" location, we might have an "unspecified" problem aboard the rocket and have"unspecified" consequences that will spew "unspecified" elements in the athmosphere and cause "unspecified" damages to an "unspecified" number of people in "unspecified" countries.

Dang, talk about precision warfare.

AS i recall (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947732)

The plutonium is larely incased in metal and ceramic that is designed to withstand little things like rentry impact and explosions.

Re:AS i recall (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947869)

Will it be in this case?

How will we know?

Is it part of the "unspecified" design changes in the "unspecified" payload?

Re:Same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3947953)

can you say paranoid?
oh and btw, that unspecified element would probably be plutonium..

Re:Same thing (1)

Phs2501 (559902) | more than 12 years ago | (#3951626)

Oh, please. Don't start sounding like these [] wackos.

I believe if you actually run the numbers the amount of plutonium in a satellite RTG spread over the world would give everyone approximately the rad exposure of a day on the beach.

(I especially love how the stop cassini freaks talk about the "continued (but dimished)" dangers. What, do they think it's going to turn around or something?)

Re:Same thing (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 12 years ago | (#3952247)

What happens if it blew up 20 seconds after takeoff and spreads said "unspecified" stuff over los angeles. Could it damage ground water/the lungs of 1.6 million people?

Re:Same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3947749)

What about the Real Genius [] senario? Would this be a quick way to create a weapon in the sky?

Perhaps the "undisclosed national security agency" has learned that bin Laden hates popcorn. :-)~

USSR used RTG's for decades.... (2)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949448)

The Soviets used RTG's for their satellites for decades, namely cause they made such crappy solar panels and such. But thanks to them there is a crapload of plutonium orbiting [] the Earth ;)

Re:USSR used RTG's for decades.... (3)

AJWM (19027) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949506)

The Soviets made some use of RTGs, but they also used nuclear reactors in some of their spy satellites, as a very heavy duty power source. Way beyond RTGs.

Cosmos 954 was one such. The normal end-of-life manouever for those things was to eject the reactor core to a much higher orbit while the rest disintegrated on reentry. 954 didn't separate, and pieces of satellite and reactor core were strewn across northwest Canada. The cleanup operation (Operation Morning Light) took a while, and we learned some interesting things about Soviet space reactor design from the pieces.

Re:USSR used RTG's for decades.... (2)

Telecommando (513768) | more than 12 years ago | (#3951132)

Not just the Soviets, the US did as well.

Voyager, Cassini, Galileo, numerous spy sats and all Apollo moon missions had RTG reactors. I believe at least one of the Mars missions did as well.

Do a search for "SNAP 9A reactor" to find out about the failed Transit 5-BN-3 mission that spread P-238 over the entire world in 1964. That one accident is credited as the main source of P-238 in the environment and was still detectable in the upper atmosphere as late as 1995 (The last time anyone checked). One group of researchers reported that contamination from that one accident was spread to every continent and was probably responsible for increased lung cancer rates 20 years later.

The US currently has 4 abandoned plutonium reactors still in orbit, the Soviets have an unknown number. 8 of the reactors known to be still in orbit are damaged.

Apollo 13's reactor is on the bottom of the Pacific ocean, hopefully undamaged. The other Apollo reactors are on the moon.

Both the US ans the Soviets have used these reactors since the 60's to provide power on Earth for weather stations, light houses, marker buoys and monitoring and surveillance stations. It's assumed the Chinese have done the same but there's no information to confirm that.

There was a reference a few years ago on the web about a CIA spy station in the mountains somewhere in Asia that had one of these reactors buried in a landslide and never recovered. I can't find it on the web anymore so maybe it's been pulled.

There's no reason to assume that the plutonium in question is going into space. Maybe they're setting up a secret monitoring station in Afghanistan.

Re:USSR used RTG's for decades.... (2)

Detritus (11846) | more than 12 years ago | (#3961737)

RTGs are not nuclear reactors. Nuclear reactors initiate and maintain a chain reaction. RTGs generate heat and electricity from the natural decay of radioactive isotopes.

Undersea Equipment (4, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947607)

I've read that RTGs have been used for undersea equipment, like the combination line tap/recorder systems that the NSA has been reported to use on undersea communication cables.

i know exactly why... (2, Funny)

skydude_20 (307538) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947649)

but then I would have to kill you...
So please just sign on the line below and we'll be set...


It's going to be planted evidence. (3, Funny)

Jon Howard (247978) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947657)

They took it so they could plant it on suspects (or plant the radiation on their gear, at least) to prove that they got the "real" terrorists.

There's going to be a "dirty bomb" conspiracy that gets busted soon, maybe a few.

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 12 years ago | (#3948897)

Um, since they can likely trace the mine/reactor it came out of they would also have to arrest some people in livermore or los alamos.

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (2)

Jon Howard (247978) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949763)

Tracing the source of a radioactive element is not so simple as you may believe it to be.

It's like tracing purified water in a bottle... once it's out of the bottle, assuming it didn't pick up any contaminants from the bottle, and it was pure before - water's water. The bottle was the only identifier.

Admittedly, varying levels of different contaminants could be used to ID the chemical's source - if it's not refined beyond the tolerance of the detectors - and the quantum properties of the individual particles could be used (in theory) to ID them, if those properties were known in advance of the theft.

Do you know of another method I'm unaware of?

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 12 years ago | (#3950125)

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (2)

Jon Howard (247978) | more than 12 years ago | (#3951247)

That would be reasonable, but the chemical in the article is supposedly straight PU-238 - not in combination with anything.

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 12 years ago | (#3952196)

I was assuming they were merely talking about the amount of fissionable material that was provided not all the elements, neccesarily.

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (2)

Jon Howard (247978) | more than 12 years ago | (#3955651)

You could be right. Perhaps not. I honestly can't say - however, the article merely mentions the quantity as a "7-kilogram parcel of Plutonium" and "7 kilograms of Plutonium 238," which doesn't specify the degree of purity attained.

Based upon who it is that has the plutonium, I imagine the goal would actually be to lure in potential terrorists by offering it for sale. It's entrapment, sure, but that isn't a concern, I'd bet.

Of course, if planting evidence was the goal, a national security agency would be able to get their hands on the chemical composition of PU-238 and dope their sample appropriately. Then again, since the quantity is also supposedly about half of the US reserves (barring anything in warheads), it would be tough to pinpoint it to one lab.

I gues it really comes down to my not haing been particularly serious in the first place ;)

Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (1)

The_Guv'na (180187) | more than 12 years ago | (#3950090)

And since when did evidence and a fair trial get in the way of furthering political objectives?


Re:It's going to be planted evidence. (1)

katarn (110199) | more than 12 years ago | (#3954465)

Not likely. There are only a few grams of this stuff available in the world. That makes it much easier to figure out where it came from.

The bigger threat would be from radioactive material gained from the medical comunity or some other industry [] which uses ratioactive material.

Take for example the children of a Mexican scrap dealer who opened up a container and found a glowing substance inside. some of them painted their bodies with it, and others went home to eat with residues of it on their hands. It turns out the container was taken from a closed down hospital, and was quite radioactive. Not all the children lived to reach the age where they would have known better.

Highly radioactive material is available from the crumbling infastructure in the former Soviet Union. Russia has already had an attempt on them, where a radio active dirty bomb was actually planted. Fortunatly for them, they caught it in time.

Probably just a security measure (2)

The Infamous TommyD (21616) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947677)

My guess is that this is a security measure to better protect material that may be useful for making a dirty bomb. I also like the satellite theory, though.

Re:Probably just a security measure (1)

TamMan2000 (578899) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947784)

Why in hell would you protect a protion of the plutonium, and not all of it?

Re:Probably just a security measure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3947966)

or the better question, why protect i from nasa, last i checked they didn't plan on making dirty bombs(not that the things could do much harm even w/ a few kg of plutonium when u consider the amount it takes over an area).

Re:Probably just a security measure (1)

BattleRat (536161) | more than 12 years ago | (#3959806)

NOT only that, but why whould the US build a dirty bomb? we got clean ones and much more powerful. My personal fave? F.A.E. Nothing sucks the air out of your enemy's lungs or cooks babies quite like a FAE.

Whilst not trying to sound like an Xfiles fan. (2)

-douggy (316782) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947872)

Secret spy satlites. Moon mining? Nuclear powered aircraft out in Nevada.

Comedy alien answer: Nuke them from orbit.

Doc Brown? (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 12 years ago | (#3947938)

What about the Stargate or 7 Days Projects... at least those were government agencies.

Re: Seven Days Project (1)

Good Sumerian (459878) | more than 12 years ago | (#3952695)

It's called the Backstep Project, I believe.

Um, "Jigawatts"? (1)

Mr. Shiny And New (525071) | more than 12 years ago | (#3948871)

I believe it's Gigawatts, since most North Americans mis-pronounce the Giga prefix as "gigga".

Correction.... (4, Informative)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949410)

Please tell me its Doc Brown looking for his 1.21 jigawatts

Just so you know the accepted pronunciation of giga was actually " JIGA ", hence the usage in Back to the Future, people just stopped using that pronunciation when gigabyte drives became more prevalent in consumer goods cause people saw the G and figured it was said like Go instead of like Giant . So the time machine in the movie was powered by 1,210 megawatts, or 1.21 gigawatts.

Re:Correction.... (2)

chriso11 (254041) | more than 12 years ago | (#3949512)

I've always called them "bigawatts".

Re:Correction.... (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 12 years ago | (#3950755)

I've often wondered why the American pronunciation (jiga) lost out to the British (giga) - the trend is usually in the other direction (e.g. science students in the UK no longer get marked down for writing "sulfur" as against "sulphur").

Re:Correction.... (2)

Greg Lindahl (37568) | more than 12 years ago | (#3969403)

It's a US-vs-GB thing, just like theta and beta and zed/zee. The use of Giga with a hard G in science predates consumer use of the term by quite a while...

It's an asteroid bomb, duh (2, Funny)

Sembiance (124190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3952946)

Let's see... a few days ago an asteroid was discovered that we 'are told' 'may' impact the earth.
And now plutonium, 7 kilograms (EXACTLY enough to build a nuclear bomb) is being sent for use to an 'undisclosed agency' ?

Duh, I think we all see what's going on here.

Someone is trying to make chocolate ice cream taste better by using plutonium.

Re:It's an asteroid bomb, duh (1)

BattleRat (536161) | more than 12 years ago | (#3959840)

you don't think you can build a nuke with DIFFERENT yields? Different yields, different amounts of plutonium.

Re:It's an asteroid bomb, duh (2)

Greg Lindahl (37568) | more than 12 years ago | (#3969460)

Wrong kind of plutonium.

The real interesting bit (1)

Grotus (137676) | more than 12 years ago | (#3954411)

I find the real interesting part to be the plans to buy plutonium from Russia.

Why, I can remember a time when Russia was ready to GIVE us more plutonium than we needed for free. And with delivery times comparable to that of a pizza. What has the world come to?

Stop that Earthling! (2)

t0qer (230538) | more than 12 years ago | (#3961410)

*melvin the martian*
Quick somebody stop that bush! He just stole my plutonium 238 Actuator!
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?