Plutonium at 150 Years: Going Strong and Aging Gracefully   [open pdf - 8MB]

"Planning the future needs of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile as well as the nuclear weapons complex depends in part on maintaining confidence in the long-term stability of the pit, or core, of plutonium-239 residing inside every weapon. Scientists and engineers who ensure the safety and reliability of the nation's stockpile had long been concerned that the damage accumulated over decades as plutonium-239 self-irradiates could eventually compromise weapon performance. In 1997, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) launched a comprehensive study at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories to examine in detail how plutonium pits age and provide a firmer scientific basis for estimating the service life of these components. The study's results, announced in late 2006, showed that the slow degradation of plutonium in U.S. nuclear weapons would not affect warhead reliability for decades. […] Now, six years later, these same naturally aged samples are 50 years old, and the accelerated alloy samples have reached an equivalent age of 150 years. Both sample lots continue to age gracefully, and extremely sensitive tests and high-resolution electron microscope images by Livermore chemists validate the confidence-building conclusions of the earlier study."

Report Number:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Technical Report 606253; LLNL-TR-606253
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: https://www.e-reports-ext.llnl.gov/
Media Type:
Science & Technology Review (December 2012)
Help with citations