September 7, 2022

Uranium Production: What Are Its Nuclear Applications?

Uranium is a naturally occurring element used for centuries to create various products, including pottery, ceramic glazes, and dyes. In the early 1800s, Uranium was discovered to be radioactive, and since then, it has been used in fewer ways, including fuel for nuclear power plants.

Uranium is a relatively abundant element found in many parts of the world. It is mined in some countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, and Kazakhstan. Read on to learn more about nuclear uses of Uranium and American uranium production. 

What Is Uranium? 

One of the heavier elements found in nature is Uranium. Its nucleus consists of about 140 and 146 neutrons and 92 protons. 

Only a few of these mixtures naturally occur, namely Uranium-238 (92 protons and 146 neutrons) and Uranium-235 (92 protons and 146 neutrons).

It can only appear in extreme circumstances because it is a powerful natural element. 

This activity, referred to as an r-process can be seen in some supernovae and neutron star mergers. 

Despite being rare, these occurrences caused it to proliferate throughout the cosmos and eventually become an essential part of our planet. The Uranium’s disintegration causes the Earth’s interior to heat up.

The ability of Uranium to release radiation over time in the form of helium atoms, which will eventually transition into thorium, is its essential property. 

The half-life of a sample, or how long it takes for its uranium content to decrease by half, is rather long for almost all uranium isotopes (the variety with a variable number of neutrons). 

Who and When Did Uranium Get Its Name?

Since the Roman era, Uranium has been utilized as a yellow coating on glass and ceramics. It experienced a comeback in the Middle Ages as pitchblende and was once more used as a dye in glassmaking. 

German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth combined nitric acid and pitchblende in 1789. He then used sodium hydroxide to neutralize the mixture. 

A yellow substance was produced due to this reaction, and it sank to the bottom.

When burned with charcoal, it creates a dark powder that Kalproth mistook for pure Uranium but was an oxide. He gave the new element the name Uranus in honor of the planet, which Willaim Herschel had only discovered eight years earlier. 

The first isolated, pure sample of Uranium wasn’t discovered until 1841. Chemist Eugène-Melchior Péligot carried this out.

What Is the Purpose of Uranium?

Since Henri Becquerel found it in 1896, Uranium has been used for radioactive decay rather than to color glazes and glasses. 

Four decades later, in 1934, a group of Italian physicists working under the guidance of Enrico Fermi found that when bombarded with neutrons, Uranium emits electrons and positrons.

While the nuclear fission process is defined and given a name by Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, work by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann demonstrates how Uranium can split into lighter components.

For better or worse, this is what makes a uranium company a game-changer.

The chemical energy released by one kilogram of totally split uranium-235 is equivalent to that of 1.5 million kilograms of coal burned.

The use of this material in nuclear power reactors was made possible by its capacity to store enormous amounts of energy and release it in a controlled manner.

The atomic bombs also used Uranium’s quick and explosive energy release.

Nuclear power plants employ coolants to heat water in another container and convert it to steam through the radioactive emission of fuel rods composed of Uranium. 

It is crucial to note that no greenhouse gasses are released even though steam drives turbines connected to a generator to produce electricity.

Depleted and Enriched Uranium

In either case, many reactors are incompatible with Uranium’s typical form. 

More than 99.2% of the Uranium mined on Earth is uranium-238, with the remaining almost entirely being uranium-235. 

This latter isotope’s capacity to start nuclear chain reactions enables a continual and prolonged response. 

However, you need to have enough fuel in your gasoline rod. This critical mass, which typically ranges from 3 to 5 percent in enriched Uranium, is referred to.

Depleted Uranium, which contains less Uranium-235, is the outcome of enrichment. This has been used in military endeavors such as constructing armor plating, armor-piercing missiles, industrial radiography equipment, and transit containers for radioactive materials. 

Many were alarmed by its widespread use in battles because of its long-term health repercussions.

Conclusion 

Uranium is a radioactive metal used for nuclear power and weapons. It is abundant in the Earth’s crust and is relatively easy to mine. Uranium can be enriched to create fuel for nuclear reactors or be used to create nuclear weapons.

Uranium is a highly controversial element, as its use can lead to devastating consequences. However, American Uranium can also be used to generate clean and safe energy, making it an important resource to consider.

enCore Energy is an American uranium production firm dominating the in-situ recovery (ISR) market. Check out our projects today.