What is uranium?
Uranium is the heaviest and most dense naturally-occurring element. It commonly occurs in the Earth's crust at concentrations ranging from 2 to 4 parts per million. Due to its slow radioactive decay, uranium provides the main source of heat within the Earth. Uranium is used primarily in nuclear power reactors for the production of electricity.
Uranium naturally occurs as two main isotopes U238 (99.3%) and U235 (0.7%).
What is yellowcake?
Yellowcake is the term used for to describe the milled uranium product after the majority of impurities have been removed. This yellow coloured powder is typically produced at the mine site by metallurgical processes to form uranium oxide U3O8 concentrate. The powder is then packaged into containers in preparation for transport. Further enrichment is then required for nuclear power generation.
What do we use uranium for?
Uranium is most commonly used in the generation of nuclear power and electricity. In addition to this, Radioisotopes that are produced from uranium have many other uses across a range of industries including:
- Scientific research
- Household products such as smoke detectors, photocopiers, watches, clocks, televisions, computers and cosmetics
- Agriculture such as pest control
- Engineering in the construction of aircraft and automobiles
- Mining and oil during the exploration process
What countries are the leading producers of uranium?
Uranium mines operate in 20 countries with half of global production coming from just 10 mines in 6 countries. These 6 countries are: Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Russia and Namibia. Canada is the second largest producer and accounts for nearly 22% of the world's uranium output. More uranium has been mined from Canada than in any other country. The Athabasca Basin is home to the richest endowment of uranium on Earth.