By: Ashleigh Boswell
Uranium is the heaviest and last naturally occurring element in the periodic table.
The fuel most widely used by nuclear plants for nuclear fission is uranium. Uranium is nonrenewable, though it is a common metal found in rocks all over the world. During nuclear fission, a small particle called a neutron hits the uranium atom, it splits, releasing a great amount of energy as heat and radiation. More neutrons are also released. The uranium fuel is formed into ceramic pellets. The pellets are about the size of your fingertip, but each one produces the same amount of energy as 150 gallons of oil. These energy-rich pellets are stacked end-to-end in 12-foot metal fuel rods. The costs are rising each and every day. At one time, uranium was considered to be a relatively unimportant element. It had a few applications in the making of stains and dyes, in producing specialized steels, and in lamps.
Where do you get Uranium from?
Uranium is mined where there are concentrations in the earth’s crust. More than half of the world’s uranium comes from mines in Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan. Other major producers are the United States, South Africa, Namibia, Brazil, Niger and Russia. Many more countries have smaller deposits that could be mined if needed. Uranium is mined in much the same way iron is. Ore is removed from the earth, then treated with nitric acid to make uranyl nitrate (UO 2 (NO 3 ) 2 ). This compound is converted to uranium.
Who can use it & Who does?
Occurrence in nature
Uranium is a moderately rare element. Its abundance is estimated to be about 1 to 2 parts per million, making it about as abundant as bromine or tin. The most common ore of uranium is pitchblende, although it also occurs in other minerals, such as uraninite, carnotite, uranophane, and coffinite.
All isotopes of uranium are radioactive. Three of these occur naturally, uranium-234, uranium-235, uranium-238. By far the most common is uranium-238, making up about 99.276% of uranium found in the Earth's crust. Uranium-238 also has the longest half life, about 4,468,000,000 years.
Isotopes are two or more forms of an element. Isotopes differ from each other according to their mass number. The number written to the right of the element's name is the mass number. The mass number represents the number of protons plus neutrons