- Uranium is a very heavy metal which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy.
- Uranium occurs in most rocks in concentrations of 2 to 4 parts per million and is as common in the Earth's crust as tin, tungsten and molybdenum. Uranium occurs in seawater, and can be recovered from the oceans.
- Uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, in the mineral called pitchblende. It was named after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered eight years earlier.
- Uranium was apparently formed in supernova about 6.6 billion years ago. While it is not common in the solar system, today its slow radioactive decay provides the main source of heat inside the Earth, causing convection and continental drift.
- Uranium has a melting point is 1132°C. The chemical symbol for uranium is U.
- Over 14% of the world's electricity is generated from uranium in nuclear reactors. This amounts to over 2500 billion kWh each year, as much as from all sources of electricity worldwide in 1960.
- It comes from some 432 nuclear reactors with a total output capacity of about 371,870 megawatts (MWe) operating in 30 countries. An additional 68 reactors are under construction, 162 are planned and another 316 are proposed.
- Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine all get 30% or more of their electricity from nuclear reactors. The USA has over 100 reactors operating, supplying 20% of its electricity. France gets three quarters of its electricity from uranium.
Source: World Nuclear Association
What is radiation: Radiation is a natural part of our environment in which humankind and other species have evolved and thrived. In fact, the sun, the earth and all living things emit radiation. Radiation comes from unstable atoms. As these unstable atoms change to become more stable, they give off radiation in the form of invisible energy waves. There is no difference between natural and man-made radiation.
Level of radiation from Earth: Radiation from the earth’s crust ranges from 23 millirem at the Atlantic Coast to 90 millirem on the Colorado Plateau.
Level of radiation from our environment: Radiation inside the body is about 40 millirem from food and water and 200 millirem from air in the form of radon. Radiation from outerspace ranges from 26 millirem at sea level to 53 millirem at 7,000-8,000 feet.
Level of radiation from electronics: Radiation from airline flights is about 1 millirem per 1,000 miles flown and radiation from a medical x-ray is 40 millirem. You will receive 7 millirem from living in a stone, brick, or concrete building; .1 millirem from a computer terminal; .06 millirem from a luminous wrist watch; and .03 millirem from living within 50 miles of a coal-fired power plant (Sources: National Council on Radiation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Level of radiation from a nuclear power plant: About 82 percent of our total exposure to radiation comes from natural sources: radon gas; the human body itself, which contains radioactive elements; outer space; and rocks and soil. A person living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant will receive .009 millirem of radiation. To put this in perspective, you would have to live near a nuclear power plant for over 2,000 years to get the same amount of radiation exposure you get from a single diagnostic medical x-ray.
The Canadian Nuclear Factbook 2013 by the Canadian Nuclear Association, slightly out of date but still very relevant:
Nuclear Energy: Just the Facts E-book by the Nuclear Energy Institute:
The Changing Landscape in Nuclear Power