Powdered Uranium

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powdered uranium is a form of uranium used to fuel nuclear power plants. It is also used in high-density armor-piercing ammunition.

Background: Uranium is a natural element in the Earth’s crust that has been mined using various techniques, including open-pit and underground mining. Ore is processed to remove impurities and dissolved uranium. This is done in conventional mills. The resulting uranium oxide, or “yellowcake,” is then filtered, dried and packaged.

In nuclear power reactors, uranium is enriched to increase the amount of a fissionable isotope, U-235, within it. Enrichment increases U-235 from under 1 percent by weight to 3 to 5 percent, which is required to provide the controlled chain reaction needed to produce electricity.

The enriched uranium is then sent to a fuel fabrication facility, where it is chemically converted into a uranium dioxide powder and pressed into ceramic pellets. The fabricator then loads these into noncorrosive long tubes, or fuel rods, for insertion into a nuclear reactor.

When handling powdered uranium, it is important to avoid contact with skin or eyes. It is also important to use adequate ventilation and wash hands thoroughly after handling.

If powdered uranium is inhaled, the victim should seek immediate medical advice and assistance, especially if skin abrasions are present. The skin should be rinsed with water and soap.

Whenever powdered uranium is present in a room or area, it should be monitored for radioactive contamination on a regular basis by CAAM or personal samplers as appropriate. Operations, which may produce airborne particulates of powdered uranium materials, must be conducted in HEPA filtered fume hoods or HEPA filtered glove boxes.