Uranium And Applications

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    The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested two persons with 7 kg natural uranium estimated to be worth around Rs 21 crore.

    • Both were arrested under the Atomic Energy Act of 1962 for possessing uranium without a licence.

    Uranium Element

    • Uranium (U) is a radioactive chemical element of the actinide series of the periodic table, atomic number 92. 
      • Uranium is a dense, hard metallic element that is silvery white in colour. It is ductile, malleable, and capable of taking a high polish.
    • Occurrence: Uranium occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and water and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals.
      • Uranium occurs naturally in several minerals such as uraninite (pitchblende), brannerite and carnotite. It is also found in phosphate rock and monazite sands
        • Monazite sands occur on the east and west coasts and in some places in Bihar. But the largest concentration of monazite sand is on the Kerala coast.

                                                                                                       Image Courtesy: Britannica

    Applications

    • Uranium that has a silvery grey metallic appearance is mainly used in nuclear power plants due to its unique nuclear properties. 
      • Naturally occurring uranium consists of 99% uranium-238 and 1% uranium-235. Uranium-235 is the only naturally occurring fissionable fuel (a fuel that can sustain a chain reaction). Uranium fuel used in nuclear reactors is enriched with uranium-235.
    • Depleted uranium is also used as a shield against radiation in medical processes using radiation therapy and also while transporting radioactive materials.
    • Uranium is also used by the military to power nuclear submarines and nuclear weapons.

    Distribution of Uranium Across World

    • Over two-thirds of the world’s production of uranium from mines is from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
      • Olympic Dam and the Ranger mine in Southern Australia are important mines in Australia.
      • High-grade deposits are only found in the Athabasca Basin region of Canada.

    Image Courtesy: world nuclear

    Uranium 214

    • Scientists have developed the lightest form of Uranium, called Uranium-214. It was created at the Heavy Ion Research Facility in Lanzhou, China.
    • It is an isotope, or a variant of the element, with 30 more neutrons than protons, one fewer neutron than the next-lightest known uranium isotope.
    • The protons and neutrons of Uranium-214 interacted much more strongly than in isotopes with a similar number of neutrons and protons.
    • In other words, the nuclear force in Uranium-214 was greater than the nuclear force in other isotopes.

    Uranium In India

    • India produces about 2 percent of the world’s uranium. The total reserves of uranium are estimated at 30,480 tonnes.
    • India has no significant reserves of Uranium. All needs are met through imports. India imports thousands of tonnes of uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, France.
    • India has 22 reactors with an installed capacity of 6,780 megawatts. Of these, eight reactors are fuelled by indigenous uranium while the remaining 14 are under IAEA safeguards and qualify to use imported uranium.

    Minings In India

    • Jaduguda in Singhbhum Thrust Belt (in the state of Jharkhand) is the first uranium deposit to be discovered in the country in 1951. 
    • Apart from discoveries in the Singhbhum Thrust Belt, several uranium occurrences have also been found in the Cuddapah basin of Andhra Pradesh
    • Significant quantities of reserves were recently discovered in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana between Seshachalam forest and Sresailam (Southern edge of Andhra to Southern edge of Telangana).
    • The uranium mining in India made an exciting beginning with the formation of Uranium
    • Corporation of India Ltd. in 1967 under the Department of Atomic Energy

     

                                                                                                             Image Courtesy: UCIL

    Additional Information

    • Radioactivity: It is the phenomenon of the disintegration of heavy elements into comparatively lighter emission in the form of radiations. 
      • This was discovered by Henri becquerel in 1896. It emits radioactive elements viz- alpha , beta, gamma rays.
    • Radioisotopes: Radioisotopes are radioactive isotopes of an element. They are any of the several species of the same chemical element with different masses whose nuclei are unstable.
      • For example: Carbon-14, Arsenic -74, Sodium -24 , Iodine -131 , Cobalt-60 and uranium – 235
      • It has many useful applications like in medicine, for example, cobalt-60 is extensively employed as a radiation source to arrest the development of cancer.

    Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL)

    • It is a centrally owned Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), under the Department of Atomic Energy for uranium mining and uranium processing.
    • It was founded in 1967.
    • It is responsible for the mining and milling of uranium ore in India.

    Source: IE