Sunday, March 22, 2009

Plutonium Powered Pacemakers: Americans with Atomic Hearts

"Plutonium Powered Pacemaker (1974)"
Oak Ridge Associated Universities (Copyright 1999, last updated: 10/17/08)

"Pacemakers are used to stimulate a regular heartbeat when the body's natural electrical pacing system is irregular or not transmitting properly.

"Over the years, various power sources have been used for pacemakers, including thermoelectric batteries containing 2 to 4 curies of plutonium-238 (88 year half-life). As the term 'thermoelectric' implies, the heat from the decaying plutonium is used to generate the electricity that stimulates the heart. At present (2003), there are between 50 and 100 people in the US who have nuclear powered pacemakers...."

Despite the 'atomophobia' that's not all that uncommon, this sounds like it was a good idea. The thermoelectric batteries would last longer than the people using them, so recharging isn't an issue. Long-term exposure to the (slight) radiation might be a bad thing: but it might be another one of those cases where people can't live long enough for adverse effects to show up.

And yes, the idea is to recover the pacemakers before the person who used it is buried or cremated. No need to fear radioactive cemeteries.

Now there's an idea for Steven King or Hollywood.


UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 3/24/2009, at The Unreligious Right

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


Thanks for the link: much appreciated.

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