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Reply #88: #3 Cesium is not of vast economic importance. [View All]

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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 12:23 AM
Response to Reply #85
88. #3 Cesium is not of vast economic importance.
Right now, cesium has relatively few industrial uses and thus it is of relatively low economic value. The main use of cesium is to make a salt, cesium formate, that is used as a lubricant in drilling operations. Cesium is also used as a counter ion for salts of fatty acids. These are mainly used in the powders found in surgical gloves. Cesium is also used in atomic clocks, in photoelectric tubes, in vacuum tubes still used by some in the high end stereo market, and in the preparation of certain types crystals for optical uses. Cesium fluoride, and a few other cesium compounds can be useful in organic synthesis. These applications, of course, are hardly wise situations for using mixtures of radioactive isotopes, however, and have almost no bearing on the issue of what we might do with radiocesium.

Cesium has a huge potential use in ion propulsion engines in outer space, and the isotope Cesium-135 is the best possible substance known for this purpose, but such an application would require, of course, an active presence of humanity beyond earths atmosphere. Because of cost, it is somewhat dubious to expect an age of interplanetary travel will actually occur but I will nonetheless further discuss this possibility briefly below and see how much Cesium such operations might consume.

The radioisotope Cs-137 has many uses, although hardly enough, currently, to utilize even a fraction of that which is generated. That said, one of the worst radiological accidents in history, one of the very rare cases where someone has actually been injured by a commercially generated fission product, involves Cesium-137. This accident occurred in Goiana, Brazil, when a cancer treatment machine in which Cesium-137 was used, was stolen by scrap dealers. Four people died and an indeterminate number, possibly in the hundreds, were injured. It is expected that some of those exposed will ultimately get leukemia, a disease they probably not have gotten without such exposure.
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