As the space race moves on, more materials are needed in order to power up the large array of instruments needed to fathom space. Decommissioned lab reopens production for Plutonium-238, nearly 30 years after it was closed.
According to several Government official, the US Department of Energy has decided to recommence production of Plutonium-238. Thus, Oakfield Ridge National Laboratory is opened for business, stating that they will shortly begin producing the radioactive isotope.
Plutonium-238 is a versatile radioactive isotope. The isotope can be used in order to power several key system on space exploration crafts, due to the fact that through its disintegration process, the radioactive compound is capable of producing a large amount of heat.
Before using it to power space instruments, the produced radioactive isotope must undergo various refinement procedures. Thus, the ORNL will be tasked with eliminating the left-over neptunium from the isotope. After finishing this delicate process, the lab is to ship the resulting batch to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the refined plutonium-238 will be further refined and transformed into pellets.
According to several representatives from ORNL, since they kicked back into the business, the laboratory was able to synthesize approximately 50 grams of raw plutonium-238.
Since the United States decided to halt the production of plutonium-238, NASA, the main beneficiary of this compound was forced to rely on its own stockpile bought from the Russia in 1993. ORNL ceased plutonium production in the early ‘80s, due to environment hazard risks.
Decommissioned lab reopens production for Plutonium-238 as the space race moves forward. In order to refine the resulting radioactive compound, the laboratory used the High Flux Isotope Reactor. Through the use of this device, the scientists were able to successfully synthesize and refine the radioactive compound, by using shielded hot cells.
Wanting to make sure that they’ll be producing enough radioactive cells for the upcoming space mission, the Martian expedition being among them, ORNL and the Department of Energy have come up with the plan in order to boost plutonium production.
By outfitting the lab with advanced production equipment, the Department of Energy plans of boosting ORLN’s production quota from 300-400 grams per year to 1.5 kilograms per year.
The decommissioned lab reopens production for plutonium-238 after 30 years of inactivity. The resulting compound will be used to power several instruments needed for space exploration. And with the 2020 Mars expedition, the boys from ORNL must do their best in order for everything to go as planned.