ACS Honors Historic Plutonium Isotope Production Site

The American Chemical Society designated Aiken, South Carolina’s Savannah River Site (SRS) as the newest National Historic Chemical Landmark, recognizing its role in the production of a plutonium isotope that proved essential to space exploration.

Beginning in 1960, SRS produced almost all the plutonium-238 used in a class of nuclear batteries that provide U.S. spacecraft with the heat and electricity necessary to power and maintain research instruments in the cold of deep space.

While production of plutonium-238 at SRS ended in 1988, the stockpile of the material it produced has continued to be used. And of course, the material aboard launched spacecraft, such as the Voyager 2 probe, continues to provide power as these craft travel the far reaches of our solar system.

A ceremony marking this achievement was held on Nov. 1 at the SRS Heritage Museum in Aiken, marking the site as South Carolina’s first-ever National Historic Chemical Landmark. The celebration, along with a technical symposium on the production and use of plutonium-238, was held alongside the Southeastern Regional Meeting of ACS.


The new Landmark was mentioned on Episode 1 of Orbitals, ACS’ new monthly podcast. More information about the site will be posted on the Landmarks website.

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