Uranium is heavy, dense, and metallic. It can be made into fuel for a nuclear reactor and is a critical component in the fabrication of nuclear weapons. That said, it can’t be denied that it is a vital material that has many wonderful uses. Below you can find more interesting facts about it.
Uranium can be found in varying amounts in geological formations called “deposits.” These deposits occur naturally and are discovered and extracted by the several mining companies that sell it to the fabricators and users of the material.
When uranium is extracted from the earth, it is found in rock, sand, and various other sedimentary deposits. It must be processed to separate it from the other materials in the ore. This involves crushing, grinding, and leaching the ore in a process called uranium extraction.
The uranium and the other elements are separated during the process by dissolving the ore in acid and passing it through a series of different chemical methods. The uranium must then be refined and converted into uranium hexafluoride.
A Very Notable Use for Uranium
Nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons are the two most popular uses for uranium. Uranium is the element used in making nuclear fuel. It is the material that generates heat in the nuclear reactors. Nuclear fuel is used to produce the heat that generates the electricity that is currently powering about 10% of the homes in the US.
The highly radioactive nature of uranium means that it cannot be used in its natural or raw form directly. It is first processed and then made into the fuel for the nuclear reactor. Although coal and oil have been used for decades, nuclear power is now replacing them.
Nuclear energy is clean, it does not produce any emissions, and the fuel is safe. These benefits make it the most popular energy source. Several countries are experimenting with the use of nuclear energy. Even the United States, which was the only country that had outlawed the use of nuclear energy, is now rethinking its position.
The Physical Properties of Uranium
The uranium metal is silvery-white in colour and quite soft. It is radioactive and is considered one of the most toxic metals. The pure metal is not very soluble in water but will dissolve in many organic solvents.
The density of uranium metal is 18.95 g/cm3, and its melting point is 1,115.2 °C. When combined with other metals, it has a lower density. For example, such a mixture has a density of 11.7 g/cm3. The melting points of such alloys are in the range of 715-750 °C. Beryllium, cadmium, and lead alloys make very good nuclear fuels.
The Uranium Production Process
Uranium can be extracted from the natural deposits of uranium ore, or it can be made in specialized facilities. The ones used in nuclear power plants are called enriched uranium. The material is converted into a solid powder form and then processed with this method. In the next stage, uranium hexafluoride is created. This is then used to make metal fuels of various kinds.
The facts shown above illustrate the benefits of uranium. It is a worthwhile energy source that has been used for several hundred years. It is used to generate electricity in nuclear plants and also in the manufacture of various nuclear weapons.
While there might have been some controversy over its use, there are still some who feel that it is a good source of energy that is both clean and green; one that can sustain all our needs for generations to come.
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