Depleted Uranium – How It Is Obtained

If you have ever seen the pictures of the silvery white metal called uranium, you have likely seen it behind a shielded area, or being held by someone that is wearing protective gloves and clothing. It is radioactive, number 92 on the periodic table, and is simply referred to as U as a symbol. It can be found in many places in nature, and is the fissile material for nuclear weapons, a substance that has many uses. However, it is the byproduct of this element called depleted uranium that has many unique properties. It can be used for a multitude of reasons, including improving the color of false teeth, protecting people from gamma radiation, and also in dental fillings. It has come under quite a bit of controversy in the last 10 years, the primary focus of the problems that Gulf War veterans have faced. It is a very unique material, and apparently one that we cannot do without, as you will see in the following material.

How To Create Depleted Uranium

To create DU, you must begin with a process called uranium enrichment. There are a couple different ways that this can be done, such as with laser separation, using a gas centrifuge, and the actual process of enriching uranium. The reason that the enrichment of uranium is necessary is because it will increase the amount of atoms that can be split when put through the fission process. This can be done to produce electricity, or it can be done when developing atomic weapons. The end result is a byproduct called depleted uranium, which essentially is missing almost all of the radiation that it once had. Take a look at the proper disposal.

Using Depleted Uranium

In order to use this uranium, it must be tested to make sure that it is not displaying any signs of radioactivity. Unfortunately, this type of testing is not always conclusive because many of the people that were in situations like the Gulf War, or individuals that are in close proximity to this type of radiation, especially gamma waves, can end up developing mutations and different types of cancer. Once this metal has been created, made from uranium hexaflouride, it will become uranium 238 isotope. It's physical properties are an atomic mass of 238, and it will be very malleable with a silvery white appearance, and can be used for counterweights, ammunition, armor, metal plating, and also for kinetic energy penetrators. Due to the fact that it is not fissionable, it must be used for other applications which the military, and some segments of the private sector, use all of the time. Although many countries have tried to stop the use of it, it is still being used by the larger governments in the world because it makes it very convenient for them to create the best weapons possible using this very solid material. In the private sector, sailboat keels, radiography cameras, and anything that involves the use of gamma radiation must have this material as a form of protection, a depleted uranium shield that can help protect their lives.

Problems Associated With This Material

There have been numerous problems with this material, difficulties that have purportedly claimed the lives of many military and civilian individuals. When this material is used for some of the applications that we mentioned, especially with armor and ammunition, it is thought to produce enough radiation, though not completely detectable, to cause cellular damage and mutations. According to the experts, the information on how bad this substance is is inconclusive, and until it can be proven, it is possible that these problems may continue to occur until depleted uranium is no longer used. This is simply the best way to prevent a possibility of radiation damage, but a replacement for DU must be found before the military and major countries will stop using this material.

The Future For Depleted Uranium

The future for the substance seems to be very bright simply because nuclear power plants are continuing to be used. The military is always needing more guns, ammunition, and different types of armor, and so it will always be in demand. Ultimately, it will come down to who has the most say, as to whether or not this material will continue to be used. For now, the future looks very bright for depleted uranium, and material that is seemingly very safe and is a necessary part of both military and civilian products.

Uranium really has played a large role in the world that we live in, and will continue to do so into the future. It is necessary for the powering of nuclear power plants, using as much as 1 kg to produce 10 Tera joules of energy. If the efficiency of the fission process is extremely good, it can produce even more. Commercial nuclear power plants must use enriched uranium, and because of this, depleted uranium will continue to be produced. From photographic chemicals to lamp filaments, and even the stains and dies that are used on leather and wood, it is a necessary metal and element for the many products that we make every year. At some point in time, there may be a substitute for depleted uranium, but for now we must continue to use it for all of the things that it helps us create and produce. As long as we are able to continue to mine and produce uranium in North America, Africa, Canada and Australia, we will always have an ample amount to use for many years to come.