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The Elements: Plutonium

September 10th, 2014

Episode 17 of 643 episodes

We investigate the econonomics of plutonium, the chemical anti-hero which has killed tens of thousands and threatened the lives of millions more. We visit the Berkeley campus of the University of California, where plutonium was first discovered and meet David Shuh director of the The Glenn T. Seaborg Centre to get an insight into this infamous element and to find out what the latest research is telling us about its potential use into the future. We hear about the desperate legacy of testing that was done on vulnerable youngsters in the 1950s and 1960s, in which they were exposed to radiation in order to find out what the effect on them might be. They continue to live with the consequences of those experiments, to this day and the BBC's Peter Marshall tells us more about their stories. And plutonium expert Robert Kelley tells about plutonium's use both as a weapon and as the basis for nuclear power and outlines the precautions that are still being taken, to this day, to try to keep the world safe from the extraordinary potential of this element.