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

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Natural Decay series of Uranium-238

Uranium has actually an atomic number of 92 which means there room 92 protons and 92 electrons in the atomic structure. U-238 has 146 neutrons in the nucleus, but the number of neutrons have the right to vary from 141 to 146. Because uranium is radioactive, it is constantly emitting particles and transforming into various other elements. Uranium has a well-established radioactive decay series. U-238 and also U-235 (which has actually 143 neutrons) are the most common isotopes the uranium. Uranium naturally consists of all three isotopes (U-238, U-235 and U-234), and it rarely varies more than 0.01% native the average composition shown in the table listed below without our intervention.

Isotopes the UraniumIsotope% uncovered in natural 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 come 5% U-235)
Nuclear Fission
Source: Wikimedia Commons

To produce fuel-grade uranium, the uranium has to be handle to produce 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 also depleted in U-235, is produced. DU and also enriched uranium have many civilian and military uses. Because U-235 is the most radioactive isotope that uranium, the remove of that to provides DU the the very least radioactive phase of uranium, yet it still has heavy steel toxicity issues.

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

U-235, when bombarded by neutrons, fissions or splits into two smaller nuclei and also releases energy and starts nuclear chain reaction. Since of the power released, U-235 is reliable for strength generation and the only isotope that uranium that have the right to sustain these reactions. For electric power plants, this reaction is regulated so that it will certainly not produce too plenty of neutrons or heat and become explosive. Go to The Basics of nuclear Reactions to find out much more about atom reactions.

Because uranium decays by emitting alpha particles at a continuous rate (half-life = time it takes for fifty percent of the product to degeneration to another substance), uranium mineral are an extremely useful for date rocks and determining the period of the earth.

Half-lives that Uranium IsotopesIsotopeTime
U-238 4.468 billion years
U-235 703.8 million years
U-234 245,500 years

Uses for Uranium

Besides nuclear strength plant fuel, U has countless other military and civilian uses. Uranium and also other radionuclides are offered by nuclear medication (MRIs, X-rays, radioisotope injections, radiation treatment, etc.), scientific study (age-dating materials, compositional information, metabolic studies, etc.), agriculture (irradiating food and seeds), consumer commodities (smoke detectors, watches, irradiating bandages and also other items to sterilize them, computer components, etc), materials testing for countless industries (automotive, aircraft, construction, mining and oil) and space exploration (fuels). In addition, depleted uranium (DU) has actually been offered for counterweights in sail boat"s keel, ballast in boats, pigments and also radiation shielding.

Depleted uranium is provided by the armed forces for its armor piercing capabilities as penetrators, and also highly enriched (>90% U-235) Uranium is offered by the armed forces for weapons.

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