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Investing in Plutonium

plutonium commodity

Plutonium is a metal that was only discovered after the development of nuclear power. There was some discussion as to whether plutonium ever existed naturally in nature. Then trace amounts of plutonium-239 and 244 were found in some uranium sites where natural nuclear fission reactions have taken place. Proponents of evolutionary theory claim plutonium is the heaviest primordial metal with a half-life of over 100 million years.

Plutonium is a radioactive actinide metal which was given the atomic number 94 and abbreviation Pu. It forms alloys with many of the other metals, a feature that scientists use to control the reaction of nuclear processes. Plutonium-zirconium, plutonium-cerium and plutonium-cerium-cobalt alloys are used as nuclear fuels. Plutonium-uranium alloys are used in fast breed reactors. Reactor grade plutonium is recovered after all the energy from uranium has been expended.

Plutonium in History

Even though a team of scientists in Rome claimed to have discovered a new element in 1934, it wasn't until plutonium was first synthesized in 1940 by exposing uranium-238 to bombardments of deuterons that element number 94 was added to the periodical chart. The University of California, Berkley, scientists who produced the nuclear metal named it after Pluto. The abbreviation, Pu, began as a joke, but stuck.

The scientific research paper announcing its discovery was withdrawn when the isotope Plutonium-239 demonstrated properties that the scientists felt would help with developing the atomic bomb. Plutonium-239 went on to play a major role in developing the first atomic bombs. Both the first bomb ever tested and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan contained a core of plutonium-239.

The first plutonium-production reactor was built on the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. The B Reactor was the first of nine plutonium-producing reactors to be built on the site. Clean-up of the nuclear waste products would later become a serious issue for the site.

During the Cold War, both the U.S. and the USSR produced large quantities of military-grade plutonium. It is estimated that the U.S. produced 103 tonnes (113.54 U.S. tons) and the Soviet Union produced 170 tonnes (187.39 U.S. tons). Today, production of plutonium continues as a by-product of nuclear power. Estimates suggest that about 20 tonnes (22 U.S. Tons) come from this source every year.

In 1945, experiments to determine how much plutonium exposure was safe took a turn toward the unethical. Without being informed of what they were being injected with, 18 human subjects were given plutonium injections. The resulting information helped doctors determine how the body handles plutonium exposure and what the maximum load of plutonium radiation is. The exposure during the tests was 4.7 micrograms. The individuals were followed for many years.

It was observed that humans collect plutonium in the bone marrow and have great difficulty in eliminating the substance. Irradiation of this tissue can have lethal effects, including bone cancer.

Despite the risk when plutonium escapes inside the human body, plutonium-238 batteries were produced in Europe and the USSR to power pacemakers. They were never approved in the U.S. It is estimated that as many as 50 people still have plutonium-powered pacemakers today. Because of the atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests that were conducted before 1963, and the series of nuclear reactor accidents that have occurred since the 1950, minute traces of plutonium may be found in the bone marrow of all mammals on the planet.

Current Sources of Plutonium

The current sources of plutonium are weapons-grade plutonium stockpiles in the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and nuclear power plants that use light water reactor cores. Any country that has nuclear power plants using light water reactor technology is producing a small quantity of plutonium.

How Plutonium is Being Used Today

The isotope plutonium-239 is still considered one of the best materials for nuclear weapons. It takes about a third of the amount of plutonium to reach critical mass (explosion) as it would take of uranium.

Plutonium was once considered a waste product of uranium-based light water nuclear power reactors. Now through a process where weapons grade plutonium and uranium are mixed into an oxide known as "MOX fuel", plutonium is used as a fuel in light water reactors. This process is in use in both the former USSR and the U.S. as a way to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium.

Plutonium was used for the electrical power generators on the Cassini, Voyager and New Horizons space probes. Even 30 years later, the Voyager power source produces 300 watts of energy, enough to allow limited operation of the spacecraft.

Economic Value of Plutonium

It is difficult to calculate the value of plutonium directly. This is because the costs of processing and turning it into a useable fuel when compared to its primary competitor, uranium, still remains high. It has been estimated that MOX fuel is still considerably more expensive than enriched uranium fuel due to the costs of preparing the MOX fuel and potential costs for disposing of it. This does not mean that plutonium doesn't have a future. The Canadian nuclear industry has developed a CANDU reactor that uses MOX fuel very efficiently. The technology of the CANDU reactor has passed the test of 40 years use. Electricity needs are increasing around the world. Hydropower has already reached maximum capacity in most countries. Coal generates greenhouse gases, while nuclear power does not.

Because plutonium poses the most serious threat for so-called dirty bombs, you can expect movement of this element to be strictly controlled in the coming years.

How to Invest in Plutonium

Because plutonium is a by-product of nuclear power reactions, you cannot invest in it directly on the stock market. Instead, you can either invest in the power companies that are building CANDU reactors or other plutonium reactors or invest in mining companies that extract uranium ore. You may also invest in companies that are studying nuclear technologies.

Future demand for Plutonium

Demand for plutonium may increase if thorium technology proves to deliver on current expectations. Not only does the thorium nuclear fuel design promise an abundant, safe and clean source of energy, it appears it will be one of the best ways to use up spent fuel, including plutonium. If the tests that have been conducted in Russia are any indication, a thorium-plutonium fuel mix will be the wave of future. The demand for plutonium will rise as it ceases to be a waste product, and becomes an integral part of the core process for starting the fission process.

How to Locate Mining Stock to Invest In Plutonium

Plutonium is a by-product of nuclear power reactions or a carefully controlled weapons-grade substance. You cannot invest in it directly on the stock market. Instead, you can either invest in power companies that are building plutonium reactors or invest in mining companies that extract uranium ore. The following list of mining companies, with at least one of the stock exchanges they are traded on, is the beginning of entering the world of uranium mining investments. This list has been narrowed down to companies that mine uranium, though they may also mine other metals as well.

Acclaim Exploration NL (AEX.AX)
Aldershot Resources Ltd (TSXV: ALZ)
Canadian Uranium Corp (TSXV: URA)
Aurora Energy Resources Inc (TSX: AXU)
Azimut Exploration Inc (TSXV: AZM)
Bannerman Resources Ltd (BMN.AX)
Bayswater Uranium Corp (TSX.V: BAY)
Belmont Resources Inc (TSXV: BEA)
Benton Resources Corp (TSXV: BTC)
Berkeley Resources Ltd (BKY.AX)
Bitterroot Resources Ltd (TSX.V: BTT)
Bluerock Resources Ltd (TSXV: BRD)
Calypso Uranium Corp (TSX.V: CLP)
Cameco Corp (TSX: CCO)
CanAlaska Uranium Ltd (TSXV: CVV, OTC: CVVUF)
Cazaly Resources Ltd (CAZ.AX)
Consolidated Abaddon Resources Inc (TSXV: ABN)
Cooper Minerals Inc (TSXV: CQ)
Crosshair Exploration and Mining Corp (TSXV: CXX)
Curnamona Energy Ltd (CUY.AX)
Deep Yellow Ltd (DYL.AX)
Denison Mines Inc (TSX: DEN)
Dios Exploration Inc (TSX: DOS)
Eagle Plains Resources Ltd (TSX: EPL)
Energy Fuels (TSXV: EFR)
Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA.AX)
Entourage Mining Ltd. (OTCBB: ENMGF)
ESO Uranium Corp (TSXV: ESO)
First Uranium Corporation (TSX: FIU)
Formation Capital Corp (TSX: FCO)
Forsys Metals Corp (TSXV: FSY)
Forum Uranium Corp (TSX.V: FDC)
Global Uranium Corp (TSXV: GU)
Globe Uranium Ltd (GBE.AX)
Globex Mining Enterprises Inc (TSX: GMX)
Hathor Exploration Ltd (TSXV: HAT)
Hindmarsh Resources Ltd (HMR.AX)
International KRL Resources Corp (TSXV: IRK)
International Montoro Resources Inc (TSXV: IMT)
JNR Resources Inc. (TSXV: JNN)
Kalahari Minerals (LSE: KAH)
Khan Resources (TSX: KRI)
Kodiak Exploration Ltd (TSXV: KXL)
Landmark Minerals Inc (TSX.V: LML)
Laramide Resources Ltd (TSX: LAM)
Latin American Minerals Inc (TSXV: LAT)
Logan Resources Ltd (TSXV: LGR)
Magnum Uranium Corp (TSXV: MM)
Marathon Resources Ltd (MTN.AX)
Matamec Explorations Inc (TSXV: MAT)
Maximus Resources Ltd (MXR.AX)
Mega Uranium Ltd (TSX: MGA)
Mesa Uranium Corp (TSXV: MZU)
Mexivada Mining Corp (TSX.V: MNV)
Mindax Ltd (MDX.AX)
Monaro Mining NL (MRO.AX)
Monax Mining Limited (MOX.AX)
Newera Uranium Ltd (NRU.AX)
North Atlantic Resources Ltd (TSX: NAC)
Nuinsco Resources Ltd (TSX: NWI)
Pacific Ridge Exploration Ltd (TSXV: PEX)
Pele Mountain Resources Inc (TSXV: GEM)
Peninsula Minerals Ltd (PEN.AX)
PepinNini Minerals Ltd (PNN.AX)
Pitchstone Exploration Ltd (TSXV: PXP)
Powertech Uranium Corp (TSXV: PWE)
Purepoint Uranium Group Inc (TSXV: PTU)
Richmond Minerals Inc (TSXV: RMD)
Rockgate Capital Corp (TSXV: RGT)
Santoy Resources Ltd (TSXV: SAN)
Scimitar Resources Limited (SIM.AX)
Solex Resources Corp (TSXV: SOX)
Solomon Resources Ltd (TSXV: SRB)
Star Uranium Corp (TSXV: SUV)
Starfire Minerals Inc (TSXV: SFR)
Stellar Resources Ltd (SRZ.AX)
Strateco Resources Inc (TSXV: RSC)
Strategic Minerals Corporation NL (SMC.AX)
Strathmore Minerals Corp (TSXV: STM)
Summit Resources Ltd (SMM.AX)
Temex Resources Corp (TSXV: TME)
Terra Ventures Inc (TSXV: TAS)
Thelon Ventures Ltd (TSXV: THV)
Titan Uranium Inc (TSXV: TUE)
Tournigan Gold Corp (TSXV: TVC)
Triex Minerals Corp (TSXV: TXM)
U3O8 Corp (TSXV: UWE)
UEX Corporation (UEX.TO)
Universal Uranium Ltd (TSXV: UUL)
Ur-Energy (TSXV: URE)
Uracan Resources Ltd (TSXV: URC)
Uranerz Energy Corp (URZ)
Uranex NL (UNX.AX)
Uranium Energy Corp (OTC: URME)
Uranium North Resource Corp (TSXV: UNR)
Uranium Oil and Gas Limited (UOG.AX)
Uranium One Inc. (TSX: SXR)
Uranium Participation Corp (TSX: U)
Uranium Power Corp (TSXV: UPC)
Uranium Resources Inc. (OTC: URIX)
Uranium Resources (LSE: URA)
Uranium FPO (USA.AX)
Uravan Minerals Inc (TSXV: UNV)
Urex Energy Corp (OTC: URXE)
U.S. Energy Corp (NASDAQ: USEG)
Vane Minerals (LSE: VML)
Vena Resources (TSXV: VEM)
Waseco Resources Inc (TSXV: WRI)
Wealth Minerals Ltd (OTC: WMLLF)
Western Uranium Corporation (TSXV: WUC)
Xemplar Energy Corp (TSXV: XE)

Plutonium Quick Facts

  • » In London pharmacies, you can purchase homeopathic plutonium. Where they purchase the plutonium is a mystery, but by the time the pills make it into the bottle, the plutonium has been diluted with 10 parts sugar 30 to 50 times. It's a good thing! Plutonium is one of the most lethal substances on earth. Only radium, which occurs naturally is worse.
  • » No human is known to have died from ingesting or inhaling plutonium particles.
  • » Plutonium does not put off gamma rays, so the greatest risk comes from inhaling or somehow swallowing it.
  • » A sheet of paper is enough to shield you from plutonium radiation, as long as the plutonium is in a solid state.
  • » When plutonium is dissolved in water, it can form six different colors--bluish lavender, yellow, brown, pink, pinkish orange and dark red.
  • » Plutonium looks like lead, but quickly oxidizes to yellow in the presence of oxygen.

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