Naturally occurring xenon (Xe) is made of nine stableisotopes. (124Xe, 134Xe and 136Xe are predicted to undergo double beta decay, but this has never been observed, so they are considered to be stable.) Xenon, with mercury, has the second highest number of stable isotopes. Only tin, with 10 stable isotopes, has more. Beyond these stable forms, there are over 40 unstable isotopes that have been studied. 129Xe is produced by beta decay of 129I (half-life: 16 million years); 131mXe, 133Xe, 133mXe, and 135Xe are some of the fission products of both 235U and 239Pu, and therefore used as indicators of nuclear explosions.
The artificial isotope 135Xe is of considerable significance in the operation of nuclear fission reactors. 135Xe has a huge cross section for thermal neutrons, 2.65x106 barns, so it acts as a neutron absorber or "poison" that can slow or stop the chain reaction after a period of operation. This was discovered in the earliest nuclear reactors built by the American Manhattan Project for plutonium production. Fortunately the designers had made provisions in the design to increase the reactor's reactivity (the number of neutrons per fission that go on to fission other atoms of nuclear fuel).
Relatively high concentrations of radioactive xenon isotopes are also found emanating from nuclear reactors due to the release of this fission gas from cracked fuel rods or fissioning of uranium in cooling water. The concentrations of these isotopes are still usually low compared to naturally occurring radioactive noble gases such as 222Rn.
Because xenon is a tracer for two parent isotopes, Xe isotope ratios in meteorites are a powerful tool for studying the formation of the solar system. The I-Xe method of dating gives the time elapsed between nucleosynthesis and the condensation of a solid object from the solar nebula. Xenon isotopes are also a powerful tool for understanding terrestrial differentiation. Excess 129Xe found in carbon dioxide well gases from New Mexico was believed to be from the decay of mantle-derived gases soon after Earth's formation. Standard atomic mass: 131.293(6) u
Geologically exceptional samples are known in which the isotopic composition lies outside the reported range. The uncertainty in the atomic mass may exceed the stated value for such specimens.
Commercially available materials may have been subjected to an undisclosed or inadvertent isotopic fractionation. Substantial deviations from the given mass and composition can occur.
Values marked # are not purely derived from experimental data, but at least partly from systematic trends. Spins with weak assignment arguments are enclosed in parentheses.
Uncertainties are given in concise form in parentheses after the corresponding last digits. Uncertainty values denote one standard deviation, except isotopic composition and standard atomic mass from IUPAC which use expanded uncertainties.
^ Status of ßß-decay in Xenon, Roland Lüscher, accessed on line September 17, 2007.
^ Average (Recommended) Half-Life Values for Two-Neutrino Double-Beta Decay, A. S. Barabash, Czechoslovak Journal of Physics52, #4 (April 2002), pp. 567–573.
^ Rajam, J. B. (1960). Atomic Physics, 7th edition, Delhi: S. Chand and Co.. ISBN 812191809X.
^ Boulos, M.S.; Manuel, O.K. (1971). "The xenon record of extinct radioactivities in the Earth.". Science174: 1334-1336.
Isotope masses from Ame2003 Atomic Mass Evaluation by G. Audi, A.H. Wapstra, C. Thibault, J. Blachot and O. Bersillon in Nuclear Physics A729 (2003).
Isotopic compositions and standard atomic masses from Atomic weights of the elements. Review 2000 (IUPAC Technical Report). Pure Appl. Chem. Vol. 75, No. 6, pp. 683-800, (2003) and Atomic Weights Revised (2005).
Half-life, spin, and isomer data selected from these sources. Editing notes on this article's talk page.
Audi, Bersillon, Blachot, Wapstra. The Nubase2003 evaluation of nuclear and decay properties, Nuc. Phys. A 729, pp. 3-128 (2003).
National Nuclear Data Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory. Information extracted from the NuDat 2.1 database (retrieved Sept. 2005).
David R. Lide (ed.), Norman E. Holden in CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 85th Edition, online version. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida (2005). Section 11, Table of the Isotopes.