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Uranium

What Is Uranium?

Uranium naturally occurs in rock, soil and even in water. It is a silvery-white metallic element which is in the actinides on the periodic table of elements. It is extracted from uraninite, a uranium-bearing mineral.

Uranium is commonly found around the world. It is a very heavy and dense metal which is very reactive and radioactive. This radioactivity is suited for nuclear powering but it can also be used in nuclear weaponry resulting in very tight regulations and restrictions on the exportation and usage of uranium.

What Is Uranium Used For?

From the very first century uranium was used as a colourant for pottery and glass making. Today uranium is used to produce electricity and to power ships and submarines. It is also used as a weight for the keels of yachts.

Uranium is used in medical treatments like radiotherapy and to sterilize medical equipment like sutures, syringes, catheters and dressings. It is used to improve the look of dentures.

The radioisotopes from uranium are used to wipe out pests from fruit and vegetable crops, to increase the genetic mutation rate in plants and to improve the productivity and health of animals.

Uranium is used in filaments for lamps, in photographic chemicals, in glazing tiles, and in military ammunition.

Where Is Uranium Produced?

Uranium is produced in seventeen countries with Kazakhstan being the top producer in 2009. It is also mined in Canada, Australia, Namibia, Russia and Niger. According to Wikipedia:

“Australia has 31% of the world's uranium ore reserves and the world's largest single uranium deposit, located at the Olympic Dam Mine in South Australia.”

Conclusion

Uranium is more commonly than gold and silver and is extracted from uraninite, a uranium-bearing mineral. Uranium is radioactive and reactive, mainly used in electrical power plants and military weapons.

The top producers of uranium are Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan.


If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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