Atmospheric Burnup of a Plutonium-238 Generator

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Science  10 Nov 1967:
Vol. 158, Issue 3802, pp. 769-771
DOI: 10.1126/science.158.3802.769


The stratospheric inventory of the plutonium-238 resulting from the disintegration of a nuclear auxiliary power generator (SNAP-9A) in early 1966 accounts for essentially all the plutonium present in the original generator that reentered the atmosphere. Consequently, the pyrophoric 238Pu must have completely burned up during reentry and ablated into small particles. The arithmetic mean of the distribution of the 238Pu particle size was estimated to be 10 millimicrons, which confirms this conclusion.

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