Uranium Essay Research Paper BackgroundUranium is a

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Uranium Essay, Research Paper Background Uranium is a hard, dense, malleable, ductile, silver-white element that has a symbol of U and atomic number of 92. It is chemically radioactive metallic element. Uranium is a member of the actinide series in group IIIb of the periodic table. It melts at about 1132 X C, boils at about 3818 X C, and has a specific gravity of 19.05 at 25 X C. Uranium is very dense and at about 19 grams per cubic centimeter, it is 1.6 times more dense than lead. The atomic weight of the element is 238.03. It is a highly reactive metal and reacts with almost all the nonmetallic elements and their compounds, especially at elevated temperatures. It dissolves readily in nitric and hydrochloric acids but is insoluble in alkalis. Uranium never occurs naturally

in the free state but is found as an oxide or complex salt in minerals such as pitchblende and carnotite. It ranks about 48th in natural abundance in crustal rocks. It is a fairly abundant element in the earth’s crust, being about 40 times as abundant as silver. Several hundred uranium-containing minerals have been found but only a few are commercially significant. Pure uranium consists of more than 99 percent of the isotope uranium-238 (half-life 4.5 +109 years), less than 1 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235 (half-life 7 +108 years), and a trace of uranium-234 (half-life 2.5 +105 years), formed by radioactive decay of uranium-238. Among the artificially produced isotopes of uranium are uranium-233, uranium-237, and uranium-239. Isotopes ranging from mass number 222 to

242 are known. History Uranium was discovered in 1789 in pitchblende by the German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth, who isolated an oxide of uranium while analyzing pitchblende samples from the Joachimsal silver mines in the former Kingdom of Bohemia, located in the present day Czech Republic and named it after the planet Uranus that was discovered only eight years earlier. However, the substance that Klaproth identified was not pure uranium but an oxide. It was first isolated fifty years later in the metallic state in 1841 by Peligot. The radioactive properties of uranium were first demonstrated about a century later from the first discover of this element in 1896 when the French physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel produced, by the action of the fluorescent salt potassium uranyl

sulfate, an image on a photographic plate covered with a light-absorbing substance. Deposits of pitchblende, the richest uranium ore, are found chiefly in Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States. Most of the uranium mined in the United States is obtained from carnotite occurring in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming. A mineral called coffinite, discovered in 1955 in Colorado, is a high-grade ore containing nearly 61 percent uranium. The U.S. production of pure uranium concentrate was about 3417 metric tons, while Canadian production was about 8729 tons; world production totaled about 29,100 metric tons. Historical Uses In 1938, Enrico Fermie at the University of Chicago produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction with

uranium. This discovery paved the way for the development of the atomic bomb by those involved in the Manhattan Project. The scientists involved in the Manhattan project, and those whose previous work contributed to it had to go through many steps to come to the desired end, having an atomic bomb to use against Germany and Japan. Before the discovery of nuclear fission, the principal use of uranium (chiefly as the oxides) was in pigments, ceramic glazes, and a yellow-green fluorescent glass and as a source of radium for medical purposes. It has also been added to steels to increase their strength and toughness. However, because of the high toxicity both chemical and radiological of uranium and its compounds, and because of their importance as nuclear fuel, these earlier uses have