From separations to reconstitution - a short history of Plutonium in the U.S. and Russia
From separations to reconstitution - a short history of Plutonium in the U.S. and Russia During the cold war plutonium was produced in reactors in both the US and Russia. It was then separated from the residual uranium and fission products by a variety of precipitation processes, such as Bismuth Phosphate, Redox, Butex, Purex, etc. in the US and uranium acetate and Purex in Russia. After a period of time in the field, plutonium weapons were recycled and the plutonium re-purified and returned to weapons. purification was accomplished by a variety of aqueous and molten salt processes, such as nitric-hydrofluoric acid dissolution followed by anion exchange, Purex modifications, molten salt extraction, electrorefining, etc. in the US and nitric acid dissolution or sodium hydroxide fusion followed by anion exchange in Russia. At the end of the Cold War, plutonium production of weapons-grade plutonium was cut off in the US and is expected to be cut off in Russia shortly after the turn of the century. Now both countries are looking at methods to reconstitute plutonium with fission products to render it no longer useful for nuclear weapons. These methods include immobilization in a ceramic matrix and then encasement in fission product laden glass, irradiation of MOX fuel, and disposal as waste in WIPP in the US more »
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