What are the elements good for?

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One Response to “What are the elements good for?”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Hmmm… Neptunium 237 could be used for making nuclear bombs. It is produced in significant quantities by nuclear power plants and takes about 60 kg for a critical mass. That’s a lot compared to Pu 239 and U235 so we didn’t use it. I read somewhere that we tested one Np device and then shelved the idea because U235 and Pu239 were cheaper and lighter. It is still an EXTREMELY tightly regulated substance.

    Americium would be useful for making bombs except it would require a larger mass for criticality and is far more expensive.

    As you note, Americium 241 is what is used in smoke detectors. It is also what a Boy Scout used for a homemade nuclear reactor. David Hahn took Americium from 300 smoke detectors, thorium from hundreds of Coleman lantern mantles, and tritium from night-vision goggles and turned his home into a superfund cleanup site. He survived without suffering any apparent radiation damage

    I figure that if he was smart enough to build his own reactor, he was probably smart enough to put in necessary safeguards. I am waiting for, “Nuclear power: So safe even a Boy Scout can do it!” to become a slogan for the nuclear power industry.

    Californium could also be used in a nuclear bomb. Critical mass is perhaps less than a kilogram which could make for a very lightweight low yield bomb except… at current prices it would cost $11 BILLION dollars for one critical mass. just not cost-effective compared to Pu239.


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