Neptunium is a radioactive rare earth metal and has at least 3 allotropic forms. It is named for the planet Neptune. Np-237 is a by-product from nuclear reactors. Neptunium was first produced by Edwin M. McMillian and Philip H. Abelson, working at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940. They produced neptunium-239, an isotope of neptunium with a half-life of about 2.4 days, by bombarding uranium with slow moving neutrons.
Neptunium's most stable isotope, neptunium-237, has a half-life of about 2,144,000 years. It decays into protactinium-233 through alpha decay. Neptunium-237, which is produced in gram quantities as a by-product of the production of plutonium in nuclear reactors, is used in neutron detectors.
Once considered to be completely artificial, extremely small amounts of neptunium are produced naturally in uranium ores through the interaction of atoms of uranium in the ore with neutrons produced by the decay of other atoms of uranium in the ore.Neptunium is a ductile, silvery, radioactive metal. Neptunium forms numerous chemical compounds. Chemically it is extremely reactive and is attacked by oxygen, steam and acids, but not by alkalis. It can exist in many oxidation states, from neptunium (II) to neptunium (VII). There are no known uses.