Going Nuclear Episode 7 – Plutonium Production

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The final part of my original plan, covering how plutonium is made for use in weapons, collected and compiled from public sources, this covers the isotopes and how they’re transformed by neutron bombardment and radioactive decay.

Thanks to https://twitter.com/ICBMDeputy for the Sandia Labs Shirt!

  1. Damien Drouart

    Not mentioned here : plutonium production makes lots of nasty byproducts. Being irradiated for so low time, the fuel elements have lots of contaminents in the form of deadly actiniums.
    All of this crap is washed in the reprocessing plant, to end in wastes vats of semi-liquid highly radioactive and highly corrosives acids that needs cooling for years, and wich no one really knows how to dispose off. At Hanford, all theses tanks of Manhattan-era production days are still there, slowly leaking in the ground. In Russia, they’ve dumped everything in the infamously know Karatchai lake, the most polluted and deadly place on Earth (radiation exposure there is equivalent to approximately what occurs *inside* a reactor core).
    Through the next centuries, environmental contamination from nuclear weapons production will probably ends in more death than the two puny bombs that were dropped on Japan…

  2. TechyBen

    Was it Richard Feynman who’s desk got liquid Plutonium spilt on it, so to recover it, he burnt the desk… as the only thing to survive after, was the plutonium. :P

  3. Stoney3K

    Wasn’t plutonium fire one of the biggest hazards when they were trying to mitigate the situation at Tsjernobyl?

  4. Daniel Powers

    I have been in that room in X10. I live in Oak Ridge. X10 gets openned to the public about once a year.

  5. chricton J

    Well, Scott. Hope to see you in The Verse sometime. But here on Planet Earth we may not make it.

  6. Zafer Atakan

    Great video again, Scott. I don’t know if you are taking suggestions but, as a future video can you talk about NERVA nuclear rocket engines and their feasibility in future interplanetary projects? They sound insanely cool and effective.

  7. Cirne Songs

    Anytime something happens “on both sides of the Atlantic independently”…..it’s friggen scary!!!!

  8. Crashmaster Mike

    >government restarted pit production
    DAMMIT U.S Government! I’m a machinist! I want to play with and make nuclear weapon parts!

  9. Kire Du'Hai

    Honestly, I don’t understand the appeal of plutonium.
    For reactors, it’s far TOO unstable and its by-products are horrifically messy, with obscenely long half-lives. You have much smaller margins of error in handling before truly disastrous things can happen.
    For weapons, it is admittedly easier to set off and more powerful (fission-wise, doesn’t boost fusion weapons by that much), but it decays quickly, is more dangerous to handle, and of course – is messier and leaves behind worse fallout when actually used. Oh, and you have to expend so much energy and resources just to MAKE it, so there’s that.
    Honestly, I don’t see why anyone would choose plutonium for a reactor OR for a weapon. Uranium is just so much more convenient.

  10. David Kearns

    when that door stop part came up I was actually worried for brief second you were going to say Uranium.

  11. Helium Road

    When Scott Manley and Curious Droid each drop a nuclear video on the same day.

  12. Paulie fox

    Going Nuclear Episode 8 – How to Get your hands on a chunk of plutonium to create your nuclear IED

  13. Bevin Smeith

    What happened to your apollo escape tower? I saw another video like that I’m sure.

  14. Taurick

    Was a bit worried this would never come out. Thanks for this series Scott, very interesting stuff

  15. A T

    But I want to know about going FFSC RAPTOR!

  16. Zach Mead

    Hey, That’s an SNL shirt!

  17. HighFlyer

    That Sandia Labs logo looks a lot like the Thunderbird School of Global Management logo.

  18. John Frazer

    One question about plutonium production, is a future need for it, when we start using “Project Orion” style nuclear pulse propulsion in rockets.
    Nothing else even close to coming off the drawing boards has nearly the potential for opening the Solar system, and it’s 1960s technology.

  19. zapfanzapfan

    You have become Death, the destroyer of worlds… :-)

  20. eekpie

    Nice but please drop any future creepy background music it’s distracting at times

  21. Ros

    We must name the next element we discover “Scottimium”

  22. Simon Coles

    You do find naturally occurring Plutonium but it is extremely rare

  23. Bones

    Ahhh. My favorite Scott manley series returns.

  24. tomcan48

    Thanks for the memories, since time at Hanford in the 80s

  25. Darrin Pearce

    Excellent series Scott. Good to see a science based explanation rather than the hysterics you see in the media.

  26. Kent K

    Loved the ominous/slightly threatening version of your “Fly safe” ending phrase.

  27. ClayZ

    The next stage in nuclear production: the TLC bomb. Peace, out.

  28. Nik McIntosh

    I’m really hoping you make a video about FOGBANK. *crosses fingers*

  29. Bjørn B

    Plutonium is certainly not a dwarf-element

  30. FizzlNet

    I’m on so many lists now, thanks to you and Cody 😂😂

  31. Tom5tom Entertainment

    And I thought regular doorstops were too expensive.

  32. Yassin Tahtah

    Thank you Scott for sharing all your knowledge with us, you really have the best videos.

  33. Palpatine001

    As someone just said: Just watched nuclear space explosions on curios droids channel, perfect”
    I have that vid queued as my next vid to watch

  34. mightyfinejonboy

    i’m curious to know how much energy was required to mine, create, process etc to the amount of energy potential from the plutonium?

  35. Vincent Riquer

    Fly safe aboard your nuclear explosion propulsed spacecraft

  36. Daniel Dogeanu

    So, Scott, you’re only telling us all this because you want us to build nuclear reactors to power the spaceships that will colonize the Solar System. Right? Right? Right? 😅

  37. Vero Ev0

    This series is super cool. I’ve always had an interest but people going insane over Chernobyl lately has reignited my interest. So cool! Thanks for putting this together!

  38. GroovyVideo2

    Great show – Very informative – Thanks for making

  39. Sean McDonough

    3:29 – Air-cooled nuclear reactor: REALLY BAD IDEA.

  40. Matt

    I just glanced at the title and for just a moment I thought that Scott Manley was declaring that he’s now a superpower.

  41. flagpoleeip

    There’s a buzz in your audio!

  42. TzuCraft

    Fascinating stuff. Worth the watchlist worries!

  43. R Johnson

    During testing of the Raptor engine, the colour of the flame suddenly switches to green on the upper side of the exhaust.
    Why does it change colour, and why only on one side?

  44. Andreas Aronsson

    Psst, would be lovely with links to the other parts in the series or at least the first one in the description 😉 greetings from a new subscriber! And whoa, so information dense, I could keep up for most of it but eyes glazed over at least once 😅

  45. Temp Name

    You have no idea how much I love these large-scale simulations.

  46. Andy non

    Thank you Scott for taking the time for making this series,
    ime fascinated by all things scientific but have struggled a little to fully digest Nuclear physics, its quite a fascinating subject with its material curiosity’s & transitions ect, & wish i had studied it when i was much younger.
    Excellent well explained video’s, keep up the cracking productions, ive managed to much more knowledge absorbed since you begun your series,
    from Luke in the UK

  47. Marijn R

    Hey, Vader is back again! Is there some kind of weird behavior to be expected from Scott, or us, when Vader is standing on the printer?

  48. archie4oz

    I felt this should’ve ended more like “I’m Scott Manley, React Safe!”

  49. Monking Flame

    I still hope that you will cover fusion and get to visit NIF or maybe have a holiday in europe and get to see JET or even ITER. But NIF seems more like an option. so I hope they let you in :)

  50. Louie Armstrong

    “The final part of my original plan” oh dear.

  51. Rokoman

    Thank you for this long awaited vid in the series.
    I’ve honestly found these to be the most informative videos you’ve done about a subject I otherwise wouldn’t know. Right up there with the orbital mechanics vids.

  52. ArchEnema 67

    So what happens to the 1% Gallium during the Plutonium fission reaction?

  53. Mattthesparky

    Loved the evil supergenius manner in which you signed off after mentioning the WMDs today Scott.

  54. Plasminium

    Oh god it’s been a while

  55. brenden lothamer

    I live in Washington and one of my neighbors used to work at Hanford. He has some really cool stories it’s very interesting stuff

  56. csehszlovakze

    Can’t wait for an episode about Thorium and LFTR’s.

  57. Dale Herman

    I don’t have time to watch right now, but I’m really excited to watch later today!
    It was so good, worth the wait.

  58. nukiepoo

    I’m a nuclear engineer; your YouTube videos are spot on!

  59. Dennis West

    I once punched a sample of Uranium-235 *so hard*
    that it turned into…
    a sharp pain in my hand.

  60. Mythricia

    I can’t shake the thought of how it must have felt, if you were in a position of knowledge and responsibility within the nuclear bomb project in WWII. A science so far ahead, so unknown, and moving so quickly. I imagined it must have been a terrifying, dreadful feeling of “What on earth are we doing?”, every time you had a chance to contemplate it. That’s not even considering it as a weapon, just the nuclear science in general. Just the concept of these reactors and the atomic reactions happening inside of them must have felt incredibly intimidating.

  61. Scremeo

    I’m so glad, that I was able to sneak some technical bits about nuclear physics into my seminar work for a theatre seminar… I still wonder, how I even got into it 😂
    Nice Video! I really like this series 👍

  62. 1_2_Die

    This series is fantastic. Like always, Thank you.

  63. Robert Keddie

    Hooray! Now I can finish that project I’ve been working on in my shed…

  64. SaintBrook

    Hey Scott, where’d you get that Sandia Thunderbird shirt?

  65. Bob William

    I just watched the whole series in a single row. One of the best and most informative I ever had. Can’t wait to start my own production! Seems easier than brewing beer.

  66. Angel Bob

    Always looking forward to another Going Nuclear. Fascinating every time.

  67. fla playa

    I hope this series goes on to “Episode 20”!

  68. David Antonini

    “A plutonium fire, which is something you do not want to happen” …understatement much?

  69. Montgomery Burns

    This has been a fascinating series, Scott. Thanks for doing all the amazing research! Great presentation, as always. Fly Safe!

  70. SecretRaginMan

    Finally, the next part of the You’re On A List Now series is out!

  71. HuntingTarg

    YAY! {[(THX)]} for [ *finally* ] concluding this series.
    Awesome choice of background ambience too :)

  72. Simon Coles

    Plutonium is just so phenomenally toxic and volatile… lovely stuff.

  73. Per technetyl

    Wrong: (1) plutonium DOES occur naturally (though in very minute quantities), (2) is does NOT have a very short half-life (like transuranics).

  74. Theophrastus Bombastus

    Kim Jong Un had to sue for peace with the US to take time waiting for Scott Manley to upload this episode.

  75. Joe Caner

    The “tender loving care” for the production of civilization ending weapons is a bit of an oxymoron.

  76. Gordon Richardson

    At 12:25 the NNSA logo looks a bit like the word NASA at first glance (though completely different when compared).

  77. Mark Bisson

    OMG! I’m a chemist and I’ve never realized the U, Np, Pu nomenclature originated from the last three planets, and in order. Wait a minute, so if Pluto is no longer a regular planet, then Plutonium will have to be a dwarf element. 😂

  78. Quadg

    you needed to mention the Windscale fire..
    to show how stupidly dangerous those breeder piles were….
    oxygen cooled piles of hot uranium and flammable graphite… what could go wrong?

  79. scarabooshable

    Should have signed off this one….
    “I’m Scott Manley. Die safe.”

  80. Jerry Rupprecht

    Better than being on a watchlist for paedophilia.

  81. ant4812

    Cherenkov radiation is a beautiful thing, beautiful but deadly…

  82. Seán O'Nilbud

    Is Plutonium now a dwarf element?

  83. Doctor Bonez

    Yay! So glad to see you continuing the series. The suspense was super critical to this excitement.😉

  84. Luke Kamrath

    Toured Oak Ridge during my undergraduate, saw that exact breeder reactor from a few feet away, one of the coolest places I have ever been to and the only place I have ever been to with armed guards to welcome you at the main gate. Love the series.

  85. Will D

    People who have gotten to this point in the series deserve to hear this; nobody is going to end up on any government ‘watch list’ for watching it. Those people who are inclined to be so paranoid must never have been to the library and read any actual book on the topic; and there are plenty. An interesting fact is that some details about nuclear weapons and their development has been retroactively classified in the internet age. Back when I first became interested in the topic as a kid (in the 1990s), there seemed to be more of a casual attitude about nukes, the Cold War was over and practically everyone seemed to forgot about them, as if the risk disappeared. My teachers who for the most part were children during the height of the Cold War, were derisive of my interest in nuclear weapons. The entire concept to them seemed to be an intellectual dead end, an anachronism which stood in stark contrast to what seemed to be a brighter future in the ‘me generation’ 1990s.

  86. webchimp

    Scot and Curious Droid both going nuclear this week.

  87. vinak

    With this knowledge, the west will be forced to respect the independence and sovereignty of glorious Sealand.

  88. Buddy Guy

    The Chigaco Pile is what I called the aftermath of my first deep dish pizza with extra anchovies and jalapenos

  89. Christopher Willis

    So in trying to explain beta decay to someone, I recognized that the normal way it is described a lie we tell to children about beta decay.
    Basically, the idea that individual nucleons in the atom decay is just wrong. For instance, it makes sense with our lie to children version of beta decay that the more massive neutron emits something and becomes a lighter proton. However, this doesn’t explain beta + decay, where a proton will turn into an neutron! This is because atoms decay, not individual nucleons! Basically, atoms are really just emergent “stuff” of the quark/gluon interaction. The resulting stability or instability of this field will result in decays of the entire atom rather than individual parts. This resulting decay manifests in atomic parts seemingly changing from one thing to another, but this is just the result of a lower level process playing out. So this is how a light proton can decay into a heavier neutron.
    More complexly is the idea that protons and neutrons don’t actually have a real mass. Their apparent mass is just the result of the strong interaction of this quark field. The mass of a proton and neutron are ever changing in response to many conditions in the atom. If you have an even amount of protons, the atom is more stable and each part “weighs” less. Same to for an even amount of neutrons. Also, there are these things call magical numbers, which are the atomic version of electron orbitals resulting in extra stable elements when the proper amount of nuclions exist in the atom…resulting in seemingly lighter constituent parts! Basically, the entire idea of mass, decay and such of the atom is really confusing and the way we have to explain it at first really betrays some of the more fundamental processes at work!

  90. Nazamroth

    “Fly Safe”, he says as he teaches me how to make nukes… I mean, was I maybe NOT supposed to duct tape it under my lawn chair and use it for propulsion?

  91. Andrew Gray

    This is just about the best weapons-grade nerd porn I’ve seen in a couple of years. Keep it going, Scott!

  92. Xylos144

    Just wanted to add in. Anti-proliferation efforts include REQUIRING the ‘toasting’ of fuel in light-water reactors for a minimum amount of time to ensure the plutonium get sufficiently poisoned with Pu240 and Pu241. This works fairly well, as it’s kind of hard for a country to take a 1GWe reactor offline without anyone noticing.
    As for being able to use it for a bomb, technically you can get plutonium like this to fission despite the Pu241 poisoning, but the Pu240 makes it very likley to pre-detonate or hamstring the yield with a pre-detonation, as you alluded to a year ago in this series. As for separating out the different isotopes, you technically could do it, but no one really has on an industrial level. It’s ridiculously inefficient, because instead of separating out essentially inert U238 from U235, with a 1.3% mass difference, you’re trying to separate out radioactive Pu239 from Pu240 with a mass difference of 0.4%
    Which gaseous compound you make from the material to separated it can alter how different these mass-differences end up being, but you’re still stuck with having contaminated centrigues that require shielding and become very difficult to service and potentially need to be operating remotely. And this is ignoring all the chemistry-based shenanigans plutonium gets up to which you covered nicely in this video. The extra cost and difficulty and risk just isn’t worth it. It’s possible, but enriching Uranium secretly is much easier, which is why no one goes this route.
    Anti-proliferation doesn’t mean making stuff impossible. It just means not making things any easier than natural alternatives. In the case of reactor fuel, as long as proper toasting is enforced, plutonium’s proliferation potential is essentially done away with because no one will bother.

  93. Nubbtub

    The Sandia National Labs shirt is a nice touch. Haha

  94. Roman Geber

    Just watched nuclear space explosions on curios droids channel, perfect 😂

  95. Simply Space

    Going Nuclear are by far my fav videos of yours! Nuclear physics is so fun!

  96. TheCardiffMafia

    “don’t try this at home” 9:25 Cody’sLab;”hold my beer”

  97. M1 A4 Abrams

    So not only must one love the bomb, one must care for the bomb?

  98. Mr. Zimbel

    Pretty sure I’m on the FBI watchlist now

  99. Kurt Weinstein

    That was the most ominous sounding “fly safe” I have ever heard.

  100. Cody'sLab

    Just wish the government wouldn’t get so butt hurt when I make even a few atoms of the stuff.

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