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News Picks : US restarts production of plutonium-238

By: Physics Today
04 January 2016 To fuel future deep-space missions, such as the Mars 2020 rover, the Department of Energy is reviving its capability to make plutonium-238. Thirty years have elapsed since the US last produced any, and only about 35 kg of the remaining stockpile have been allocated to NASA missions. Because the old reactors that made plutonium have been decommissioned, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee has developed a new production process with which it has managed to produce 50 grams of the isotope. Once the process is fully automated and scaled up, DOE expects to supply NASA with some 1.5 kg per year.


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