|Jmol-3D images||Image 1|
|Molar mass||276.06 g mol−1|
|Appearance||Dark yellow crystals|
|Density||11.5 g cm-3|
2400 °C, 2673 K, 4352 °F
2800 °C, 3073 K, 5072 °F
|Crystal structure||Fluorite (cubic), cF12|
|Space group||Fm3m, No. 225|
|Tetrahedral (O2–); cubic (PuIV)|
| (what is: / ?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Plutonium(IV) oxide is the chemical compound with the formula PuO2. This high melting-point solid is a principal compound of plutonium. It can vary in color from yellow to olive green, depending on the particle size, temperature and method of production.
PuO2 crystallizes in the fluorite motif, with the Pu4+ centers organized in a face-centered cubic array and oxide ions occupying tetrahedral holes. PuO2 owes its utility as a nuclear fuel to the fact that vacancies in the octahedral holes allows room for fissile products. In nuclear fission, one atom of plutonium splits into two. The vacancy of the octahedral holes provides room for the new product and allows the PuO2 monolith to retain its structural integrity.
Plutonium dioxide is a stable ceramic material with an extremely low solubility in water and with a high melting point (2,390°C).
Plutonium metal spontaneously oxidizes to PuO2 in an atmosphere of oxygen. Plutonium dioxide is mainly produced by calcination of plutonium(IV) oxalate, Pu(C2O4)2·6H2O, at 300 °C. Plutonium oxalate is obtained during the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. Plutonium dioxide can also be recovered from molten-salt breeder reactors by adding sodium carbonate to the fuel salt after any remaining uranium is removed from the salt as its hexafluoride.
PuO2, along with UO2, is used in MOX fuels for nuclear reactors. Plutonium-238 dioxide is used as fuel for several deep-space spacecraft such as the 'New Horizons' Pluto probe as well as in the Curiosity rover on Mars. The isotope decays by emitting α-particles which then generate heat (see radioisotope thermoelectric generator). There have been concerns that an accidental orbital earth re-entry might lead to the break-up and/or burn-up of a spacecraft, resulting in the dispersal of the plutonium, either over a large tract of the planetary surface or within the upper atmosphere.
The behavior of plutonium oxide in the body varies with the way in which it is taken. Since it is insoluble, when ingested, a very large percentage of it will be eliminated from the body quite rapidly in body wastes. In particulate form, plutonium oxide at a particle size less than 10 micrometers (0.01 mm) is toxic if inhaled, due to its alpha-emission.
- "Nitric acid processing". Los Alamos Laboratory.
- Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1984). Chemistry of the Elements. Oxford: Pergamon Press. p. 1471. ISBN 0-08-022057-6.
- World Nuclear Society, Plutonium (accessed Nov 29 2013)
- Michael Singer, David Weir, and Barbara Newman Canfield (Nov. 26, 1979). "Nuclear Nightmare: America's Worst Fear Come True". New York Magazine.
- United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Fact sheet on plutonium (accessed Nov 29 2013)
- "Toxicological Profile For Plutonium". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2009-04-23.