Problem

Plutonium pollution

Other Names:
Plutonium poisoning
Overexposure to plutonium
Nature:

Plutonium, a radioactive waste product of nuclear production, is carcinogenic. Even in minute quantities it is highly toxic. It is expensive to secure, chemically unstable and easy to fashion into a crude nuclear device. The plants which manufacture it are aging, and there is possibility that quantities of the element could escape should there be any accident. There is no known use for plutonium other than in weapons and bombs. Uncontrolled pollution coupled with mass destruction arising from the use of plutonium bombs.

Background:

There is no real distinction between weapons-grade and reactor-grade plutonium, in that both make very satisfactory bombs. Less than nine kg of plutonium (a piece the size of a grapefruit) is sufficient for a bomb. One ten-thousandth of a gram is the human cancer dose.

Incidence:

A 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant creates about 200 kg of plutonium in a year. Such reactor grade plutonium would be sufficient to manufacture 47,000 bombs. A number of countries, including the UK, France and Japan, plan to extract the plutonium content from their used uranium fuel.

In 1999, human error was blamed for the temporary loss of a small quantity of plutonium from the nuclear research centre of the European Commission in Geel, Belgium. The plutonium, destined for France, turned up in Britain around one month after it went missing.

Values:
Pollution
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
13.05.2019 – 16:59 CEST