A Guide for Teachers & Students

Lesson plan ideas An activity book to photocopy for your students Uranium SA website information

Introduction for Teachers
Uranium SA Website and Printed Material
The Uranium SA website (www.uraniumsa.org) and this accompanying guide for teachers and students has been developed by the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy, on behalf of South Australia's uranium producers so that informed debate can occur. The material aims to present facts and issues associated with uranium. The website and the guide have been designed principally to educate and inform upper primary and lower secondary students about uranium. Topics include: the use, mining and processing of uranium, the 'Nuclear Fuel Cycle', and the safety and environmental implications of radiation and the uranium industry in the context of sustainable development. A quiz and some answers to frequently asked questions appear on the website. These activities attempt to clarify myths and confusion regarding uranium in the context of sustainable development. The website also features colourful illustrations, photographs and animated diagrams. Research information has been provided to complete the crossword puzzle, and to assist with the implementation of the lesson plan ideas.

Uranium - A Guide For Teachers and Students
The simple title 'Uranium' was chosen for this guide to depict the broad coverage that has been given to the subject and to generate curiosity and interest. 'Uranium - A Guide for Teachers and Students' has been designed to complement the Uranium SA website. You will find this education resource practical, flexible, and easy to incorporate into your curriculum activities. Included are facts about uranium; practical lesson plan ideas; information about radiation; a site map for the Uranium SA website (found on page 7) and further resource ideas and web links. Following page 4 is an eight-page lift-out that provides facts and information for students about uranium. It includes informative diagrams, pictures and an introductory crossword puzzle, all linked to the Uranium SA website. This student section is designed to be photocopied, but is also available in class sets from the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy by phoning (08) 8130 6500.

Classroom Application
Student outcomes: Debate confidently and scientifically on issues involving uranium mining and its use.
Understand what uranium is, how it is mined and processed in SA and its uses in Australia and overseas. Understand safety and environmental issues involved with mining and the use of uranium. Be able to evaluate the different energy sources in terms of the sustainable development debate. Lesson plan ideas have been provided for each of the eight Key Learning Areas (found on pages 4 and 5). There is a focus on the Science, Technology, and Society and the Environment Learning Areas.

Uranium - A Guide for Teachers & Students


Did You Know?
Uranium is a very dense metallic element that occurs more abundantly than gold, silver and mercury in the earth's crust. Its radioactive decay provides the main source of heat inside the earth. Uranium was discovered in pitchblende in 1789 by the German chemist, Martin Heinrich Klaproth, but it was not until 1841 that French scientist, Eugene Péligot first isolated it in the metallic state. In 1896, the French physicist Antoine Becquerel discovered the radioactive properties of uranium, and in 1898 Marie and Pierre Curie carried out further pioneering work on atoms, radioactivity and uranium. Uranium meets much of the world's electricity needs, accounting for 16% of electricity generation in developed countries. Australia does not have any nuclear power plants. It does, however, have a research reactor in Lucas Heights, Sydney, which is used to produce radioisotopes for medicine, agriculture, and industry. Early uses of uranium and other radioactive isotopes included glazes for ceramics and glass. Uranium's high density means that it can be used in the keels of yachts, and in counterweights for aircraft rudders and elevators. Today, radioisotopes are used for medical diagnosis and treatment, to sterilise medical equipment, to kill bacteria in food, to produce disease and drought-resistant crops, to make commercial products such as the household smoke detector and to power ships and submarines.

for Teachers

There are three different methods of uranium mining: open-cut mining, underground mining, and in situ leaching. In situ leaching reduces the amount of radiation exposure for miners as it involves circulating a chemical solution through the ground to dissolve the uranium in the orebody, then pumping the solution out and extracting the uranium from it. With in situ leach mining, miners are not in direct contact with the orebody. Stringent safety methods and procedures are used to minimise radiation exposure for open-cut and underground miners. There are three operating uranium mining sites in Australia, from which the uranium oxide concentrate (yellow cake) is exported. These are: Olympic Dam, Beverley (both in South Australia), and Ranger (in the Northern Territory). A fourth (Honeymoon in South Australia) is likely to be producing in 2002. Uranium mined in Australia is not used to make nuclear weapons. Australia only sells to countries that have signed agreements not to use the uranium for making nuclear weapons and which accept international inspections and audits to check this.

Uranium - A Guide for Teachers & Students


Lesson Plan Ideas
You will find the information on the accompanying website www.uraniumsa.org useful for developing these lesson plan ideas.
Find out about the regulations, standards and codes that are in place in Australia for uranium mining, uranium exports and the handling of mining radioactive wastes. What agreements does Australia have with other nations about the use of uranium and the handling of waste from nuclear power plants? How are these agreements monitored?

Society and the Environment
Divide your class into groups. Each group is to investigate one of the different kinds of energy sources. You could use the ‘Comparison of Energy Sources’ table on page 8 of the student section as a starting point. The groups are then to present their findings to the rest of the class in an interesting way. 28% of the world's population consumes 77% of the world's energy. The world is facing an energy crisis as our population grows and demands for electricity increase. Our electricity needs are expected to double in the next twenty years. Discuss ways in which these growing needs could be met. Uranium mining in Australia has always been a subject of controversy. Research what is different about any mining in the 21st century, compared with the middle of the 19th century. Choose one of South Australia's working uranium mines and find out how uranium is mined there. Make a poster to display your information. Research how the people involved with uranium mines, or any kind of mine, try to minimise their impact on the environment. A repository to store low-level radioactive waste will be established in the north of South Australia. What are the prerequisites for this kind of waste repository? Debate this proposal and investigate its pros and cons. Investigate some of the jobs and career pathways in the mining industry.

Ask students to research Martin Heinrich Klaproth, Eugene Péligot, Antoine Bequerel and Marie and Pierre Curie, and discover more information about them and their discoveries. Fission occurs when atoms are split. Find out more about atoms, electrons, neutrons and protons and how they function. Draw diagrams, construct models or, if possible, create computer simulations of the fission reaction. Investigate the issue of global warming and its possible effects on the environment. Discuss how generating electricity from different energy sources affects the emission of greenhouse gases. What are the wastes from uranium mining and from a nuclear power reactor? How are they similar and how are they different? What happens to these wastes? Compare low, intermediate and high level wastes.

In groups, imagine that you are producing a documentary on uranium mining in South Australia. Research your facts carefully and aim to present both sides of the argument. Decide on a title and the content and write your script. If possible, video your documentary and show it to the rest of your class. Make a working model of a mine using a variety of materials.

Uranium - A Guide for Teachers & Students


Lesson Plan Ideas

and the percentage of their power needs that are met by nuclear electricity. These figures (for 1999) were: France 76%, Belgium 59%, Sweden 48%, Korea 44%, Japan 36%, Switzerland 36%, Finland 33%, Germany 31%, Spain 31%, UK 29%, Taiwan 25%, the United States 20%, and Canada 13%. (May also be applicable for Languages/LOTE)

Most homes and schools have smoke detectors that use radioactive isotopes. What are these isotopes? Investigate how a smoke detector works. We take our technology for granted but many people in Third World countries still do not have access to electricity. List all the things at your school and at home that depend on electricity. Discuss what life would be like (and is like for many people) without electricity. Research and discuss how modern technology has changed the way uranium is mined and used. How have advances in technology made these practices safer and more efficient? You could use Chernobyl and Three Mile Island as examples. Research and discuss how modern technology has led to different ways of handling waste from nuclear power reactors. Have advances in technology made waste disposal practices safer and more efficient, and if so, how?

Using words found on the website, create a crossword or word search and try it out on your friends. Organise a class debate on the topic, 'Nuclear energy is a valid source of power in conjunction with alternative energy sources'. Write a story describing a typical day in your life - without electricity.

Find as many words as you can in other languages for the words: mine, ore, rock, underground, heat, power, electricity, energy and fuel. The following countries have operational nuclear power reactors. Find the countries on a map of the world, and draw or stick dots onto the map to show how many reactors they have. USA 104; France 59; Japan 53; UK 33; Russia 29; Germany 20; Canada 18; Korea (South) 16; Ukraine 14; India 12; Sweden 11; Spain 9; Belgium 7; Bulgaria, Slovakia and Taiwan 6; Switzerland 5; Czech Republic, Finland and Hungary 4; China 3; Argentina, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan and South Africa 2; Armenia, Brazil, Netherlands, Romania & Slovenia 1. (May also be applicable for Mathematics) The words alpha, beta and gamma are used to describe ionising radiation. What is their origin?

Health and Physical Education
Investigate how the medical profession uses radiotherapy to detect and treat cancer. Research the procedures that South Australian uranium mines use to ensure safe levels of exposure to radiation for their workers.

Australia has 27% of the world's known recoverable resources of uranium, Kazakhstan 17%, Canada 15%, South Africa 11%, Namibia 8%, Brazil 7%, Russian Federation 5%, USA 4% and Uzbekistan 4%. Draw a pie graph to illustrate these figures. Find the countries listed on a map of the world. Although nuclear power is not used in Australia, overseas countries use it extensively. Draw a graph of the countries listed below,

Uranium - A Guide for Teachers & Students


Radiation - the Story
Radiation is all around us. It is in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the ground we walk on. It is even released by your television, computer, and microwave! But what is radiation? Radiation describes tiny particles and invisible waves that travel through space as energy. Have you ever had an X-ray to see if you have a broken bone? X-rays are a form of radiation that can pass through your body. Have you ever been sunburnt? The rays from the sun are also a form of radiation. Have you ever been flying in a plane? People flying at high altitudes, where the atmosphere is different from near the ground, can be exposed to more cosmic radiation than those on the ground. Radiation also arises from nuclear fission. This happens in a nuclear reactor. The energy released in the reactor is used to heat water for the generation of electricity. (Other types of radiation are heat, light, and sound waves).



Gamma High Frequency


Ultra Violet

Visible light


Microwaves Low Frequency


An interactive version of the energy spectrum appears on the website (www.uraniumsa.org)

Radiation (or energy), is also released from radioactive atoms. This type of radiation is called ionising radiation. When a radioactive atom hits a non-radioactive atom, the non-radioactive atom gives up one of its electrons and becomes 'ionised'. The ionised atom produces electrically-charged particles called ions. There are three main types of ionising radiation: alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays. Alpha particles are quite large and are slowed down and stopped as they pass through matter. They can only penetrate into aluminium (or human skin) a few thousandths of a centimetre. Beta particles are small, fast, and can travel quite far. They can pass through up to 1 - 2 centimetres of various objects, or human skin. Gamma rays are high-energy waves and can travel very long distances. Only objects such as concrete, lead or metal, or a metre or more of water can stop them in their tracks!


Uranium - A Guide for Teachers & Students

Uranium SA Home Page About This Site What’s New FAQ Search Contact Us

About Uranium

Uranium & the Community

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Mining & Processing

The Environment & Sustainable Development

Safety Issues

Further Research

Teachers & Students

What is Uranium?

What is Uranium Used for?

What is the Nuclear Fuel Cycle?

Uranium Mining & Processing in SA

Sustainable Development


Web Links

The Uranium Quiz

The Uranium Atom

Early Uses

Mining & Milling

Underground Method

The Environment



Uranium A Guide for Teachers & Students (as pdf)

Uranium Fission Electricity What is Radioactivity? Health & Medicine What is Radiation? Food & Agriculture

Conversion In Situ Leaching Method Enrichment Comparison of Different Energy Sources Protection Uranium A Guide for Students (as pdf)

Uranium - A Guide for Teachers & Students

Fuel Fabrication

The Discovery of Uranium

The Back End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Uranium SA Website Site Map www.uraniumsa.org

Australia’s Uranium

Industry & Research

Waste Management


Contact for Further Information
South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy Incorporated: (08) 8130 6500

Heathgate Resources: www.heathgateresources.com.au SA Chamber of Mines and Energy: www.resourcessa.org.au Southern Cross Resources: www.uic.com.au/southernx.htm WMC: www.wmc.com.au Australian Academy of Science: www.science.org.au/nova/002/002key.htm Department of Industry Science and Resources: www.dist.gov.au/resources/radwaste Nuclear Energy Institute: www.nei.org United Nations (Chernobyl): www.un.org/ha/chernobyl Uranium Information Centre, Australia: www.uic.com.au World Nuclear Association: www.world-nuclear.org World's Nuclear News Agency: www.worldnuclear.org

‘Nuclear Electricity’ (6th Edition, August 2000) - Ian Hore-Lacy, MSc FACE MAusIMM, Uranium Information Centre, Australia. ‘Radiation Safety’ (1998) - Operators' Radiation Committee, Australia. ‘Sustainable Development and Nuclear Power’ (1997) - International Atomic Energy Agency, Austria.

Prepared by

Puzzle Solutions
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did you know?
from page 2 of Student Section 18 9 5 1 10 19 11 20 4 12 21 14 27 7 13 22 15 2 8 16 24 3 17 23 25 28 26 6

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