Uranium is a common naturally occurring and radioactive substance. It is a normal part of rocks, soil, air, and water, and it occurs in nature in the form of minerals - but never as a metal. Uranium metal is silver-colored with a gray surface and is nearly as strong as steel. Natural uranium is a mixture of three types or isotopes called U-234 (234U), U-235 (235U), and U-238 (238U). All three are the same chemical, but they have different radioactive properties.
Typical concentrations in soil are a few parts per million (ppm). Some rocks contain high enough mineral concentrations of uranium to be mined. The rocks are taken to a chemical plant where the uranium is taken out and made into uranium chemicals or metal. The remaining sand is called mill tailings. Tailings are rich in the chemicals and radioactive materials that were not removed, such as radium
One of the radioactive properties of uranium is half-life, or the time it takes for half of the isotope to give off its radiation and change into another substance. The half-lives are very long (around 200,000 years for 234U, 700 million years for 235U, and 5 billion years for 238U). This is why uranium still exists in nature and has not all decayed away.
The isotope 235U is useful as a fuel in power plants and weapons. To make fuel, natural uranium is separated into two portions. The fuel portion has more 235U than normal and is called enriched uranium. The leftover portion with less 235U than normal is called depleted uranium, or DU. Natural, depleted, and enriched uranium are chemically identical. DU is the least radioactive and enriched uranium the most.
Uranium is a naturally occurring chemical substance that is mildly radioactive. Everyone is exposed to low amounts of uranium through food, air, and water. Exposure to high levels of uranium can cause kidney
disease. It is not known to cause cancer
, but can decay into other radioactive materials that may. Uranium above natural levels has been found in at least 54 of the 1,517 National Priorities List sites
identified by the Environmental Protection Agency
See a doctor if you have been harmed by this substance. In addition, it
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Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
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