The plutonium isotopes listed below are “fissionable,” which means that the nuclei can be split into two fragments, called fission products. In addition to being fissionable, plutonium-239 and plutonium-241 are “fissile” – that is, they can be split by neutrons of very low (ideally zero) energy. This means that they can be assembled into a critical mass, and hence can sustain a chain reaction without an external source of neutrons. To help you learn more about the properties of Plutonium, check out this worksheet on Plutonium!
|Half-life (in years)||87.74||24,110||6,537||14.4||376,000|
|Specific activity (curies/gram)||17.3||0.063||0.23||104||0.004|
|Principal decay mode||alpha||alpha||alpha and some spontaneous fission ||beta||alpha|
|Decay energy (MeV)||5.593||5.244||5.255||0.021||4.983|
|Radiological hazards||alpha and weak gamma||alpha and weak gamma||alpha and weak gamma||beta and weak gamma ||alpha and weak gamma|
|How isotope is produced||nuclear reactors||nuclear reactors||nuclear reactors||nuclear reactors||nuclear reactors|
|Main uses||Production of thermoelectric power used in nuclear weapons, satallites, and
|Fissile material for nuclear weapons, and for the production of
Source: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 1990-1991. Various sources give
slightly different figures for half-lives and energies.