(ORDO NEWS) — Uranium is one of the most mysterious chemical elements. It contains so much energy that a small piece of this metal is equal in power to one ton of oil. It is because of this that uranium has been used as a nuclear fuel in nuclear power plants for many years.
Opened but were not afraid
Many people think that uranium is a radioactive and dangerous substance. However, this is not quite true. Pure uranium does not exist in nature. At the end of the 18th century, uranium was discovered as an impurity in the metal. And it was named after the planet. At that time, the radioactive properties of the elements had not yet been discovered and uranium was even used to make dishes.
Only a few years after the discovery of the metal, scientists were able to isolate pure uranium. And before the start of World War II, the phenomenon of the decay of uranium nuclei was discovered. This marked the beginning of the worldwide extraction of the element. If you irradiate nuclei with neutrons, then, capturing a free neutron, the nucleus begins to split and eject a colossal amount of energy.
Such different isotopes
This element can exist in several modifications. The longest-lived isotope is uranium-238. Its half-life is over 4.5 billion years. Because of this duration, we can conclude that its radiation is weak, and alpha particles are not able to pass even through human skin.
Most of the uranium in nature is in the state of the isotope uranium-238, which does not pose a danger to humans, but is not suitable for energy. More uranium-235 is used in industry, since only this substance can trigger a powerful nuclear chain reaction.
How to get
Uranium mining is difficult. There are almost no large deposits of metal, although uranium is found on earth more often than silver. Therefore, the main production of fuel is carried out in mines up to 1 km deep. Most uranium deposits are in Canada and Russia, but their quality varies greatly. In Russia, a ton of ore yields only 1.5 kg of uranium.
Uranium ore can be mined in three ways: open-pit (work is done on the ground), underground (mine drilling), and leaching. For the latter, wells are drilled at the corners of the hexagon, through which sulfuric acid is injected. Next, another central hole is drilled through which uranium compounds are extracted.
Uranium itself is obtained by processing ores and carrying out chemical reactions. The resulting metal must be enriched, that is, the dose of uranium-235 must be increased. For this process, a gas centrifuge was created, where, under centrifugal force, an element is separated into metal and a light isotope. Subsequently, the element requires disposal, but often this can destroy individual bodies of water.
Contact us: [email protected]