In news: Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) recently arrested two persons under the Atomic Energy Act of 1962 for possessing 7 kg natural uranium without licence.
- Uranium occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and sea water and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals.
- It 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 has a melting point of 1132°C.
- It has a silvery grey metallic appearance and is mainly used in nuclear power plants due to its unique nuclear properties.
- Depleted uranium is also used as a shield against radiation in medical processes using radiation therapy and also while transporting radioactive materials.
- Its high density makes it effective in halting radiation and useful as counterweights in aircraft and industrial machinery.
- The U-235 nucleus is ‘fissile’, that of U-238 is said to be ‘fertile’.
- This means that it can capture one of the neutrons which are flying about in the core of the reactor and become (indirectly) plutonium-239, which is fissile.