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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Aging Plutonium

A Los Alamos physicist describes a career solving scientific mysteries for national security.
December 1, 2016
Rectangular piece of plutonium pinned between two cylinders of acoustic transducers

Resonant ultrasound spectroscopy, useful for studying how plutonium changes over time, pins samples to be measured ever-so-lightly between acoustic transducers.

“We are now sitting on two breakthrough theories, one of which could finally explain plutonium’s electronic structure.” - Albert Migliori, Los Alamos physicist

“We have a deep obligation to understand how plutonium alloys age as they accumulate damage from their own radioactivity,” says Los Alamos physicist Albert Migliori. “If we don’t, how can we be confident in the effectiveness of our weapons? We have to use all relevant science to understand everything that affects nuclear performance. The fact that plutonium science turns out to be so enthralling in its own right is a tremendous bonus.”

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