Hard, lustrous, silver-white, malleable and ductile, radioactive, metallic element of the actinide series, atomic number 92, relative atomic mass 238.029. It is the most abundant radioactive element in the Earth's crust, its decay giving rise to essentially all radioactive elements in nature; its final decay product is the stable element lead. Uranium combines readily with most elements to form compounds that are extremely poisonous. The chief ore is pitchblende, in which the element was discovered by German chemist Martin Klaproth in 1789; he named it after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered in 1781.
Small amounts of certain compounds containing uranium have been used in the ceramics industry to make orange-yellow glazes and as mordants in dyeing; however, this practice was discontinued when the dangerous effects of radiation became known.
Uranium is one of the fissile elements (others include thorium and plutonium). It was long considered to be the element with the highest atomic number to occur naturally on Earth. The isotopes U-238 and U-235 have been used to help determine the age of the Earth.
Uranium-238, which comprises about 99% of all naturally occurring uranium, has a half-life of 4.51 × 109 years. Because of its abundance, it is the isotope from which fissile plutonium is produced in breeder nuclear reactors. The fissile isotope U-235 has a half-life of 7.13 × 108 years and comprises about 0.7% of naturally occurring uranium; it is used directly as a fuel for nuclear reactors and in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Many countries mine uranium; large deposits are found in Canada, the USA, Australia, and South Africa.
What is Uranium?
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