94Pu Plutonium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

A. Wahl, J. Kennedy and Glenn Seaborg of the USA

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named after the planet Pluto, plutonium is a silvery, radioactive metal. It is chemically active, reacting with air, water and acids but not bases. Plutonium radiates heat and is warm to the touch owing to its radioactivity. It is found in minute quantities in uranium minerals and ores, but it must be created artificially in any significant quantity. Several tons of plutonium are produced every year by extracting it from uranium. Plutonium is used as a nuclear fuel and in nuclear weapons. It only takes one kilogram of plutonium to cause a nuclear explosion equivalent to 20,000 tons of chemical explosives. It is also used as a power and heat source aboard spacecraft. Minute amounts of plutonium are used in pacemakers. The most stable isotope of plutonium has a half-life of 376,000 years. Plutonium is dangerous owing to its intense radioactivity.

Biological Benefits

Plutonium has no biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefits for life processes in plants and animals.


Plutonium is obtained by particle bombardment of uranium.