ATSDR toxzine : uranium
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      Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive element. It is found in very small amounts in nature in the form of minerals, but may be processed into a silver-colored metal . Rocks, soil, surface and groundwater, air, and plants and animals all contain varying amounts of uranium . If the amount is great enough, the uranium may be present in commercial concentrations, called ore, and can be mined . Uranium is almost as hard as steel and much denser than lead. Natural uranium is used to make enriched uranium; depleted uranium is the leftover product. Enriched uranium is used to make fuel for nuclear power plants. Depleted uranium is used as a counterbalance on helicopter rotors and airplane control surfaces, as a shield to protect against ionizing radiation, as a component to munitions to help them penetrate enemy armored vehicles, and as armor in some parts of military vehicles. Natural uranium is a mixture of three isotopes: 234U, 235U, and 238U. The most common isotope is 238U; it makes up about 99% of natural uranium by mass. All three isotopes behave the same chemically, but they have different radioactive properties. The half-lives of uranium isotopes (the amount of time needed for half of the isotope to give off its radiation and change into a different element) are very long . The least radioactive isotope is 238U with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Depleted uranium is a mixture of the same three uranium isotopes, except that it has very little 234U and 235U. It is less radioactive than natural uranium. Enriched uranium is another mixture of isotopes that has more 234U and 235U than natural uranium. Enriched uranium is more radioactive than natural uranium. Natural uranium is radioactive but poses little radioactive danger because it gives off very small amounts of radiation. Uranium transforms into another element and gives off radiation. In this way uranium transforms into thorium and gives off a particle called an alpha particle or alpha radiation. Uranium is called the parent, and thorium is called the transformation product . When the transformation product is radioactive, it keeps transforming until a stable product is formed. During these decay processes, the parent uranium, its decay products, and their subsequent decay products each release radiation. Radon and radium are two of these products. Unlike other kinds of radiation, the alpha radiation ordinarily given off by uranium cannot pass through solid objects, such as paper or human skin. CS251228-A Publication date from document properties. uranium_toxzine.pdf
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