Uranium found in the earth’s crust was a product of a supernova that happened billions of years ago. It is a natural component of rocks and seawater. When uranium atoms decay, they produce heat. The product of this radioactive decay is lead.
Humans have learned to harness the power of uranium, along with the development of technology. The heavy metal is the primary fuel source of nuclear reactors for producing energy. There was a time when mined uranium was mostly used for the creation of weapons during war. Today, this element has become an energy source.
Whilst highly beneficial, there is much risk involved when utilizing radioactive elements. As the Utah-based company of EnergySolutions.com explains, depleted uranium (DU) particles are harmful when ingested by human beings. DU can affect the eyes, skin, and kidneys.
Exposure to radioactive uranium also increases the risk of cancer. Humans and animals are both at risk for these health hazards, especially when they inhale or swallow radioactive material. The biggest risk to society is the infiltration of DU debris to ground water, which is the source of drinking water in most homes.
State and local authorities continue to implement monitoring procedures — particularly on milk products and drinking water — to determine uranium levels and assess potential risks. They also check depleted uranium processing facilities that are directly involved in the recycling and disposal of nuclear materials. This is important to prevent environmental contamination.
Proper handling and disposal
Due to the inherent dangers of radioactive waste, the government has implemented various procedures to ensure proper disposal and handling. Uranium may also undergo recovery, enrichment, and conversion procedures. These make it less risky to dispose of low-level radioactive waste. Deconversion of DU significantly lowers the chemical hazards associated with it.
Uranium is a great source of concentrated energy. With proper handling and processing, nuclear facilities can convert it to a low-risk waste material for safe and responsible disposal.