Mining involves plenty of minerals and processes. Some of the more common metals involved are iron and lead. However, there are certain metals that have to be extracted and collected with a bit more care. Such metals include gold and platinum. Uranium also falls in that mix of elements that require safety when discovered and mined.
Continue reading this quick and simple introduction to uranium and how it works.
Uranium is a metal that is found in small amounts in the Earth’s crust, typically emanating harmful radioactive fumes. When uranium ore is mined, the uranium has to be extracted from the rock. This process can be done using chemicals or by heating the rock to a very high temperature.
Uranium is a radioactive element and emits alpha particles, which are streams of positively charged particles. These particles can be dangerous if they come into direct contact with the human body.
When Was Uranium Discovered?
The first recorded discovery of uranium was in 1789 by German chemist Martin Klaproth. At the time, Klaproth was investigating a black rock, which he named pitchblende. Later on, it turned out to be mostly uranium oxide.
Now, uranium can be discovered and mined in earnest. Currently, there are several million tons of uranium ore mined every year. There are deposits everywhere, but the variation of uranium can be different from location to location.
What Does Uranium Do?
Uranium is considered valuable because it can be used to fuel nuclear reactors. It can also be used to create armor-piercing bullets and as a power source for different forms of travel. For instance, submarines and spacecraft can benefit from uranium.
Additionally, uranium can be used to build radiometers, which are used to measure weather and sunlight patterns. And in very small doses, uranium can also be used as a treatment for cancer. It’s quite helpful in the tech and medical fields.
How Is Uranium Converted?
Uranium, like most elements, is mined in the form of ore. These are then processed to extract the uranium from the ore. The uranium is then converted and processed into something less harmful and more helpful.
Generally, uranium is mostly converted back into its gas form and then used in nuclear power plants. It can nucleate into a gas and is then subjected to extreme heat. While conversion is a lengthy process, it’s one that makes sense in terms of energy purposes.
Who Produces Uranium?
In terms of production, the United States is one of the biggest producers of uranium. The country is estimated to produce around 24% of the world’s uranium. However, this can differ between uranium-238 or U-238 and uranium-235 or U-235.
Although these two isotopes are classified under the same family, U-238 makes up 99.3% of the ore, while U-235 only makes up 0.7% of it. U-238 is understandably favored when it comes to production and harnessing this element.
Uranium is an incredibly powerful mineral when it comes to nuclear reactors. It’s also a powerful mineral for tech and medical purposes. As a radioactive element, uranium needs to be handled carefully. It must be extracted, processed, and stored safely without a hitch.
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