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Question:
Is it possible to make plutonium from common household items? how?



Replies:
No. Plutonium is a pure element. It is rare and expensive. I do not know of any household items that would contain this highly dangerous metal.

gregory r bradburn


Not only that, but plutonium does not naturally occur on the Earth. It must be made in a nuclear reactor by irradiating uranium and then separating chemically the Pu with great care and at enormous expense from the other (highly radioactive) products. So far as I know, too, plutonium has no uses at all other than to make atomic bombs. There are a number of other radioactive elements that do have widespread and important uses --- in household smoke detectors, for example, or in tracer molecules for medicine or basic biochemistry research. If you "label" a molecule with a radioactive atom its location in the body will show up on an X-ray. For example, workers at the University of Illinois have labeled molecules that attach themselves at the same point in cells that estrogen (the main female hormone) molecules do. Estrogen accelerates the growth of breast cancers that take it up. Using labeling techniques like these, one could perhaps find out whether a given cancer consists of cells that take up estrogen. If it does, one could consider hormone therapy (blocking the production of estrogen) before trying surgery, a considerably less pleasant alternative.

christopher grayce



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