Scientists Are Automating Plutonium Production So NASA Can Explore Deep Space

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Department of Energy researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee announced on Tuesday that they have automated a critical step in the production of a nuclear fuel crucial for deep space exploration

Plutonium-238 is a radioactive material that has been used by NASA to power dozens of missions to the outer edge of our solar system and beyond. It is stable, incredibly energy dense, and lasts for decades. Automating aspects of its production—previously done by hand—is expected to triple the number of plutonium pellets produced at Oak Ridge each week.

It’s a key milestone as the Department of Energy races to increase its plutonium production capacity before the United States’ dwindling scientific stockpile of plutonium-238 is totally depleted and


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