Is Deuterium Radioactive?

Isotopes and Radioactivity

This is glowing ionized deuterium in an IEC reactor.
This is glowing deuterium in an IEC reactor. Although this is a picture of a reactor, the glow is due to the ionization of deuterium, not radioactivity.

Benji9072/Wikimedia Commons

Deuterium is one of the three isotopes of hydrogen. Each deuterium atom contains one proton and one neutron. The most common isotope of hydrogen is protium, which has one proton and no neutrons. The "extra" neutron makes each atom of deuterium heavier than an atom of protium, so deuterium is also known as heavy hydrogen.

Although deuterium is an isotope, is not radioactive. Both deuterium and protium are stable isotopes of hydrogen. Ordinary water and heavy water made with deuterium are similarly stable. Tritium is radioactive. It's not always easy to predict whether an isotope will be stable or radioactive. Most of the time, radioactive decay occurs when there is a significant difference between the number of protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Is Deuterium Radioactive?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, February 16). Is Deuterium Radioactive? Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Is Deuterium Radioactive?" ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).