Plutonium A History of the World’s Most Dangerous Element – Book Review

By: Jeremy Bernstein

QD181.P9 B47 2007

Copyright © 2007 by Jeremy Bernstein.

Reviewed by: Paul McMahon

Bernstein has taught nuclear physics at the graduate level and does an excellent job of explaining complex concepts of chemistry and physics to the layman who is not familiar with them.

Before World War II there was no plutonium on earth. This is because plutonium is formed during cataclysmic events such as super novas. Once one of these occurs and creates lots of plutonium, the plutonium decays and effectively disappears leaving clues as to its existence in the by-products of its decay.

Now there is estimated that at the end of 2004 1,740 metric tons of non-military plutonium and 2.8 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium. A bomb takes about 15 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium. Plutonium is created as a by product of the decay of uranium that occurs in a reactor. Note that you can also make a bomb out of non military plutonium.

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