Uranium

uranium mining
Uranium is a naturally occurring element that can be found in low levels within all rock, soil, water and even animal and human tissue. It is a silver-grey metallic element, has the highest atomic weight of all the naturally occurring elements, and is 70% more dense than lead. Whilst uranium is widespread at low levels almost everywhere, it rarely reaches concentrations that are viable for extraction from the earth through mining processes. (Download pdf What is URANIUM?)

Uranium Uses

Uranium is most widely known for its unique radioactive properties and it is these radioactive properties that drive most of its commercial use. Uranium’s primary commercial use is as a fuel to generate electricity. Currently, uranium produces approximately 16% of the world’s electricity, and with global electricity demand expected to double in the next 25 years, it is anticipated that uranium’s importance as a base-load energy supply will only increase. Unlike other base-load energy supplies, such as coal, oil and gas, uranium emits no greenhouse gasses. Uranium is also an incredibly efficient fuel; 1 kg of uranium can produce approximately 50,000 kWh (kilowatt hour) of electricity, whereas 1 kg of coal will produce only 3 kWh of electricity and emits greenhouse gasses in the process.
Technology associated with renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and tide, is improving all the time, but can still only contribute intermittently to a base-load electricity supply. One day, renewable energy sources may be the dominant supply of electricity globally, but we are many decades from this point, and until the technology is sufficient, uranium offers a continuous, clean, safe and reliable energy source.
Aside from a source to generate electricity, uranium has several other uses. Radioisotopes are produced in nuclear reactors and are used in the numerous medical procedures such as radiotherapy (treatment for cancer), brain scans, and heart and thyroid tests. Radioisotopes are also used in agriculture to help increase crop yields, and control pests.

Uranium ore

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