Famous Incidents of Plutonium Exposure


Plutonium is a highly dangerous element that when a person made slight mistake on handling it, it can take his or her life without mercy. Inhaling it alone can damage lungs and other internal organs. According to some scientific studies, inhalation of plutonium can cause decreased on life span, disease of the respiratory tract and cancer.

Here are the following famous incidents of plutonium exposure:

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Back in World War 2, plutonium were discovered as a powerful element in the construction of nuclear bombs. The first devastating weapon in the history made out of plutonium was the atomic bomb. And, it was first dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Many people got killed that even the remaining survivors had later died due to radiation.

Louis Slotin

One of the most popular physicist and chemist who worked in the testing process of the plutonium cores was Louis Slotin. He was actually a part of the Manhattan Project who created the first atomic bombs.

The unfortunate incident had happened on May 21, 1946. Slotin was working along with his seven other colleagues where they were performing the first steps of a fission reaction. The procedure was placing two half-spheres of beryllium around a plutonium core.

Slotin's mistake was that, he used a screwdriver in trying to maintain the separation between the two half-spheres. This was clearly a violation of their experimental protocol. Thus, the unexpected incident happened where the screwdriver got slipped which caused the upper beryllium sphere to fall. This had caused a critical reaction that emitted a powerful burst of radiation. He then died 9 days later from the incident.

Harry K. Daghlian, Jr.

Another incident which again involved the Manhattan Project was an Armenian-American physicists, Harry K. Daghlian Jr. His was actually attempting to build a neutron reflector out from a plutonium core and tungsten carbide bricks.

One crucial safety regulations that Daghlian violated was that, he was working late at night all alone by himself in the laboratory. His experiment actually involved stacking a series of tungsten carbide bricks around the plutonium core. However, he accidentally dropped the final brick into the assembly which caused a super critical reaction. The only possible way to stop the reaction was that, he partially disassembled the tungsten carbide. But due to the time that took him, he received a lethal dose of neutron radiation. He died 25 days later from the incident.

Cecil Kelley

Cecil Kelley was a chemical operator of a large mixing tank in the Los Alamos plutonium processing facility. But on December 30, 1958, unexpected incident happened while Kelley was on duty. The solution in the tank somewhat increased to a critical level. So when Kelley switched the stirrer ON, the liquid inside the tank formed a vortex and at the same time, the plutonium layer released a powerful bursts of neutrons and gamma radiation.

At the time of incident, Kelley was standing on a foot ladder checking into the tank through the viewing window but as a result of the emitted radiation, she fell and knocked down on the floor.

Kelly was rushed to the hospital suffering from an agonizing pain that she was burning up. She was also semiconscious, retching, vomiting and hyperventilating. And unlike the other incidents mentioned above, Kelly didn't survive long enough because she died 35 hours later after the incident.


Therefore, these famous incidents of plutonium exposure should already be good enough to warn people from attempting to recover the black coffin treasures. If in case that they do contain plutonium, attempting to open them can take their lives including those other innocent people that can be reached by the radiation.