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Uranium (U) is a metallic, silver-gray element that is a member that the actinide series. The is the principle fuel because that nuclear reactors, but it additionally used in the to produce of atom weapons.

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Natural Decay series of Uranium-238

Uranium has actually an atomic variety of 92 which method there are 92 protons and 92 electrons in the atomic structure. U-238 has 146 neutron in the nucleus, yet the variety of neutrons deserve to vary from 141 come 146. Since uranium is radioactive, the is constantly emitting particles and changing into other elements. Uranium has a well-established radioactive degeneration series. U-238 and also U-235 (which has 143 neutrons) room the most typical isotopes of uranium. Uranium naturally has all 3 isotopes (U-238, U-235 and U-234), and it hardly ever varies more than 0.01% indigenous the median composition presented in the table listed below without ours intervention.

Isotopes of UraniumIsotope% discovered in organic U% discovered in Enriched U* % discovered in Depleted U
U-238 99.28% 96.471% 99.8%
U-235 0.72% 3.5% 0.2%
U-234 0.0057% 0.029% 0.001%
* Reactor-grade enriched uranium (normally varies from 3.5 to 5% U-235)
Nuclear Fission
Source: Wikimedia Commons

To develop fuel-grade uranium, the uranium has to be processed to create uranium dioxide and to enrich or concentrate the U-235 in the fuel pellets. During this processing, depleted uranium (DU), enriched in U-238 and depleted in U-235, is produced. DU and also enriched uranium have countless civilian and military uses. Since U-235 is the many radioactive isotope the uranium, the remove of the to provides DU the the very least radioactive phase of uranium, but it still has actually heavy metal toxicity issues.

Despite any processing, enriched, depleted or natural uranium every behave the same chemically. Uranium ore oxidizes come uranium oxy-hydroxides once exposed to the waiting and/or water.

U-235, when bombarded by neutrons, fissions or splits right into two smaller nuclei and releases energy and starts atom chain reaction. Since of the energy released, U-235 is efficient for power generation and the just isotope of uranium that can sustain these reactions. For electrical power plants, this reaction is regulated so that it will certainly not produce too countless neutrons or heat and also become explosive. Walk to The Basics of nuclear Reactions to uncover out more about atom reactions.

Because uranium decays by emitting alpha particles at a continuous rate (half-life = time that takes for half of the product to degeneration to one more substance), uranium minerals are very useful for dating rocks and determining the period of the earth.

Half-lives of Uranium IsotopesIsotopeTime
U-238 4.468 exchange rate years
U-235 703.8 million years
U-234 245,500 years

Uses for Uranium

Besides nuclear strength plant fuel, U has plenty of other military and civilian uses. Uranium and also other cadionuclides are used by nuclear medicine (MRIs, X-rays, radioisotope injections, radiation treatment, etc.), scientific study (age-dating materials, compositional information, metabolic studies, etc.), farming (irradiating food and also seeds), consumer products (smoke detectors, watches, irradiating bandages and also other items to sterilize them, computer system components, etc), materials experimentation for many industries (automotive, aircraft, construction, mining and oil) and room exploration (fuels). In addition, depleted uranium (DU) has actually been provided for counterweights in sail boat"s keel, ballast in boats, pigments and also radiation shielding.

Depleted uranium is used by the military for its armour piercing capabilities together penetrators, and also highly enriched (>90% U-235) Uranium is supplied by the armed forces for weapons.

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