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

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Natural Decay series of Uranium-238

Uranium has an atomic number of 92 which way there are 92 protons and also 92 electrons in the atom structure. U-238 has 146 neutron in the nucleus, but the variety of neutrons have the right to vary indigenous 141 to 146. Since uranium is radioactive, that is constantly create particles and an altering into other elements. Uranium has actually a well-established radioactive decay series. U-238 and also U-235 (which has actually 143 neutrons) space the most common isotopes that uranium. Uranium naturally consists of all 3 isotopes (U-238, U-235 and also U-234), and it rarely varies much more than 0.01% from the median composition shown in the table below without our intervention.

Isotopes of UraniumIsotope% discovered in organic U% found in Enriched U* % uncovered 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 produce fuel-grade uranium, the uranium has to be handle 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 also depleted in U-235, is produced. DU and also enriched uranium have numerous civilian and military uses. Because U-235 is the many radioactive isotope that uranium, the remove of it to provides DU the least radioactive step of uranium, however it still has heavy steel toxicity issues.

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

U-235, as soon as bombarded through neutrons, fissions or splits into two smaller sized nuclei and also releases energy and starts a atom chain reaction. Due to the fact that of the power released, U-235 is efficient for power generation and the just isotope of uranium that deserve to sustain this reactions. For electrical power plants, this reaction is regulated so the it will not produce too numerous neutrons or heat and also become explosive. Walk to The Basics of nuclear Reactions to discover out much more about nuclear reactions.

Because uranium decays by emitting alpha particles at a constant rate (half-life = time it takes for fifty percent of the product to decay to one more substance), uranium mineral are an extremely useful for dating rocks and determining the age of the earth.

Half-lives the 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 radionuclides are supplied by nuclear medicine (MRIs, X-rays, radioisotope injections, radiation treatment, etc.), scientific research (age-dating materials, compositional information, metabolic studies, etc.), agriculture (irradiating food and also seeds), consumer assets (smoke detectors, watches, irradiating bandages and also other items to sterilize them, computer system components, etc), materials trial and error for countless industries (automotive, aircraft, construction, mining and oil) and space exploration (fuels). In addition, depleted uranium (DU) has been supplied for counterweights in sail boat"s keel, ballast in boats, pigments and also radiation shielding.

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

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