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Plutonium and Pluto
By Nick Kollerstrom
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Underground millionaire Pluto lord of Death
Allen Ginsberg, Plutonian Ode (1)

The unnatural new element was made and bred under a cloak of absolute secrecy, as part of the wartime 'Manhatten Project.'  For two years, it had no name.  Ten years after the new planet Pluto had appeared in the heavens, this unnatural element appeared under the worst possible circumstances, as the world lurched into total war. As Pluto in mythology wore a helmet of invisibility, so plutonium is an element which none of us are ever likely to see. The world only heard about it when it exploded in New Mexico, turning the desert sand to glass.

Pluto's turning-point

The new planet Pluto appeared in 1930 conjunct its own node. Its orbit makes a steep angle to the ecliptic so this was quite a pronounced event; therefore its appearance was enormously powerful, as if some Hades-type principle had emerged into the light of day. In 1932 artificial transmutation began, and then in 1942 atomic energy was unleashed. In politics unheard-of horrors appeared, as if underworld principles had emerged: the victors of World War II somehow acquired the assumption that it was OK to target missiles on the cities of other nations. For the dreadful new weapons, Pluto's element was the trigger. Tension heightened until, in the 1980s, a majority of Britons were expecting the thermonuclear conflagration - remember? The necro-technocrats seemed to be in control. Hidden missiles deep in their silos, which we never saw, threatened to emerge into the light of day, and ‘cruise missiles’ were wheeled around Europe.

The '80s were stressful because Pluto had entered within the orbit of Neptune. It came nearest in 1989. Its orbit is strongly elliptical, so this nearest approach (its ‘perihelion’) was quite marked. Once that distant sphere started to recede, the tension abruptly vanished: we could all forget about the terror of annihilation, and the shadow of the Bomb faded into yesterday's memory. The plutonium-crazed history of the nuclear arms race thus appears as framed by two events: Pluto crossing its node in 1930, then reaching its perihelion in 1989.

A New god of darkness

     The Bard surveys plutonian history from midnight,
     Lit with Mercury Vapour streetlamps till in dawn's early light
     He contemplates a tranquil politic spaced out between Nations' thought-forms
     Proliferating bureaucratic & horrific arm'd,
     Satanic industries projected sudden  with Five Hundred Billion Dollar Strength ...

          Ginsberg, Plutonian Ode (2)

When Uranium was discovered in 1789, it was named after the new planet Uranus, found in 1781. No further elements beyond Uranium were discovered until after Pluto's appearance. Uranium was the ninety-second element in the Periodic Table of elements, and when the next two elements in this sequence turned up, elements 93 and 94, there was a kind of inevitability about their naming. They had to be named after the next two planets, and so were called neptunium and plutonium - both found at Berkeley using the new cyclotron. Glen Seaborg who named the new element had (it hardly needs saying) no inkling of the awful symbolic appropriateness of the name he was giving. He would have guessed it would be fissile, that's about all.

Within the core of nuclear reactors, a transmutation-process goes through the sequence of the outer planet-names:
Uranium 238  to  Uranium 239  to  Neptunium  to  Plutonium 239
The uranium-cycle is:   Earth: Uranium is mined;  Air: a winnowing separates the isotopes, the fissile U-235 from the denser U-238 which remains as 'depleted uranium';  Fire: in the heat of the reactor core, the uranium chain-reacts and plutonium is bred; and then  Water: in nitric acid baths, the spent reactor fuel is dissolved and thereby the plutonium is separated out - and given to the military (3).   The 'plutonium economy' is one of stealth and secrecy, as may remind us of the way in which 'Hades was never depicted in ancient Greek art, more out of awe than because of the problems of showing an invisible ruler' (2).

The problem of who had what plutonium was an exciting government secret, labyrinthine in its deceptions. Pluto's domain gained its ‘plutocratic’ wealth from minerals, especially precious stones and metals, underground: advocates of a plutonium economy foresaw an era of cheap energy that would ensue from using it. The trouble was that a mere microgram (millionth of a gram) can kill, if lodged in the lungs. The dream (or nightmare) of plutonium-based reactors, called 'fast-breeder' reactors, seems to have died, around 'Pluto's turning-point' of 1989, due to world uranium costs dropping.

Pluto Rising

     What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there a new thing under the Sun?
     At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative, Scientific theme
     First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poisonous  hand,
     Named for Death's planet through the sea beyond Uranus...
           Ginsberg, Plutonian Ode

Chart for the Creation of Plutonium: Berkley cyctron, 8pm. Dec 14, 1940

There was a definite moment, when the endeavour to create a sample of plutonium began: in Berkeley, California, Glen Seaborg switched on the beam of the big cyclotron onto a sample of uranium. Seaborg's diaries give us the exact moment of this event. The previous summer neptunium had been made, and Seaborg's team decided to have a go for element 94. A beam of deuterium was focussed upon a uranium sample from 8.00 hours until midnight, on December 14th, 1940 (5). The chart for this moment has Pluto rising within half a degree. Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned (at Full-Moon) with the Galactic Centre at 27° of Sagittarius. That's our local black hole, which could be symbolically quite appropriate. Also in line is Seaborg's own Pluto, i.e. its position when he was born, at 27° of Gemini.

The Plutonium-creation chart is bristling with pentagram-symmetries which astrologers call 'quintiles.' There was a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction chiming and Pluto was square to this, and also it was in quintile to (72° ) Uranus. That quintile between Pluto and Uranus met and re-met altogether five times (due to the retrograde motions), and Plutonium was created at the last of these five quintiles. The Moon was on the midpoint of this aspect i.e. in a decile (36° ) aspect to them, and right on the position of Seaborg's natal Pluto (within 5'). Thus Pluto had moved a decile (36° ) since Seaborg was born.

Plutonium has five different crystal-type conditions or 'phases' that it can be in, and has five possible valencies (6). These are abnormal and surely unique properties for a metal. In addition it seemed to me that it could exist as five possible isotopes that were important, though others were also feasible. Its markedly fivefold character was expressed by the pentagram-geometry in the heavens at its birth.

I found and published the chart for plutonium in 1984, then more recently in 2000 its striking connection to the earlier chart for Pluto's appearance was noticed (7). The 'ascendent' of the plutonium chart was four-and-a-half degrees of Leo, i.e. this was the degree rising when the cyclotron beam was switched on, and Pluto was then at four degrees of Leo. When Pluto was discovered a decade earlier (by Clyde Tombaugh at Flagstaff, Arizona, at 4.00 am on Feb 18th, 1930),  the ascendent at Flagstaff was three-and-a-half degrees of Leo: the genesis-moment for plutonium had Pluto rising and on the ascendent degree of its own discovery! Such synchrony rules out the possibility of chance, and indicates that the new metal is in some sense ruled by the new planet. Also, Taylor noticed, a straight line between Berkeley, where the new element was made, and Trinity where the first plutonium device was exploded, passes right through Flagstaff in Arizona.

Pluto and its large moon revolve around a center of gravity which is outside them both, rather like some fission product. Thus the given position of Pluto is pure nothingness, mere empty space…


1.Allen Ginsberg, Plutonian Ode, 1982 City Lights Books San Fr.

2. K.McLeish, ‘Myth,’ 1996 Bloomsbury p.236.

3. In Canada, nuclear reactors have remained unlinked to any military program.

4. The Plutonium Story, The Journals of Professor Glen T. Seaborg 1939-46, Ohio 1994, p.14.

5. N.K., Pluto and Plutonium The Astrological journal Autumn 1984 p.4. I obtained the relevant page of his then-unpublished diaries via a letter from Seaborg. The genesis-moment is 4.00 am GMT on Dec 15th 1940.

6. Plutonium 'undergoes no less than five phase transitions between room temperature and its melting-point.' Also its ions are commonly 'in the III, IV,V & VI oxidation states, but also VII': J.Katz and G.Seaborg, Chemistry of the Actinide elements 1957 p.265.

7. Brian Taylor, The discovery of Pluto in: Orpheus, Voices in contemporary Astrology Ed S.Harvey 2000 247-330.