Li2 is pretty light stuff, but turning to lead would seem to imply something transuranic.
Enter the Enterprise?
The author has given the ship a reactor pile, so the uranium, plutonium, or thorium split into lead. Unless he meant a fusion reactor pile, even though reactor pile is specific to fission; it’s doubtful any fission reactor which could fit in one of those shuttles would have the energy density to allow it to reach orbit.
Or perhaps he meant it figuratively.
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