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IN MINUTES

What is uranium?
Uranium is the heaviest of all the naturallyoccurring elements (hydrogen is the lightest). Uranium is 18.7 times as dense as water. Natural uranium is found in the Earths crust Its largely a mixture of two isotopes: 99.3% uranium-238 (U-238) 0.7% uranium-235 (U-235)

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Increases the proportion of U-235 by separating it from U-238 through a centrifuge.

Enrichment process

90% Yellowcake is converted to uranium hexauoride

gas (UF6), the feedstock for uranium enrichment UF6 gas is put into a centrifuge Depleted uranium U235-enriched gas is sent to next centrifuge Lighter U-235 move upward Process is repeated in a cascade of centrifuges

Levels of enrichment
% of U-235

1 kg of natural uranium produces as much heat as 20,000 kg of coal.


neutron U-235

The isotope U-235 is important because under certain conditions it can readily be split, yielding a lot of energy. It is therefore said to be ssile and we use the expression nuclear ssion.

0.7%
natural uranium

3%
Lowenriched uranium (reactor grade)

Centifuge: 20% increases proportion of U-235 HighWeapons isotope in enriched grade the UF6 uranium gas (weapon
usable)

Energy from the uranium atom


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When the nucleus of a U-235 atom captures a moving neutron, it splits in two (ssions) and releases some energy in the form of heat. During the ssion, two or three neutrons are thrown o . If enough of these expelled neutrons are captured by the nuclei of other U-235 atoms to split, releasing further neutrons, a ssion chain reaction occurs. When this happens over and over again (millions of times) a very large amount of heat is produced from a relatively small amount of uranium.

U-238

X 2

Uranium
All you need to know about
Uranium is a radioactive element used in creating nuclear ssion reactions. It is commonly used in nuclear power plants to generate energy, but also for nuclear weaponry.

Spins at high speeds

Heavier U238 descend

Transported to enrichment facilities


to be processed to reactor fuel.

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Mining and enriching


17,803 9,783 5,900 4,496 4,198 3,562 2,400 1,660 850 827 670 583 400 254 148 77 45 7

The dried, yellow-brownish powder has a uranium concentration of about 80%. Often called yellowcake.

Filtered and dried

90%

2010 production (tonnes U)


Kazakhstan Canada Australia Namibia Niger Russia Uzbekistan USA Ukraine (est) China (est) Malawi South Africa India (est) Czech Repub. Brazil Romania (est) Pakistan (est) France

Where does uranium come from?


About 62% of uranium is from mines in Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
Other countries 38%

Searching for uranium is, in some ways, easier than searching for other mineral resources because the radiation signature of uraniums decay products allows deposits to be identied and mapped from the air.

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The uranium bonds to the acid.

Acid is added to the powder

of the uranium can be separated from the surrounding rock.

Kazakhstan 33%

Ore is mined
Uranium ore is traditionally mined from open pit or underground mines by drilling and blasting techniques, if it is less than 100 m deep. Less than 0.3% of the ore will be uranium.

Ore is crushed

Australia Canada 18% 11%

Crushed granules are ground into a ne powder

of the uranium is left behind. The leftover slurry is collected in tanks.

10%

Sources: World Nuclear Association; Wikipedia; Canadian Nuclear Association; World Uranium Mining; DUF6 Guide; Graphic News

2,000 kg of uranium ore will give about 1 kg of yellowcake.

SUSAN BATSFORD, GRAPHICS EDITOR, TWITTER @SBATS1/QMI AGENCY