Uranium is a relatively common element found in the Earth's crust, mostly the mantle. It is a metal that is nearly as common as zinc and tin. The metal is a constituent of most rocks, even in the sea. The element is available in quantities enough to supply the world energy needs both geologically and by use of technology. The quantity of the mineral and its resources are far greater than previously thought as they have increased by about one-fourth in the last decade mostly due to the exploration of minerals.
Mining Of Uranium
The mining of uranium is the process involved in the extraction of uranium from the ground. About 60,496 tons of uranium was produced in 2015 worldwide. The top three producers of uranium include Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia who together account for about 70% of the world's total production of Uranium. Other significant producing countries of uranium include China, the United States, Namibia, Niger, Ukraine, Russia, and Uzbekistan.
Uses Of Uranium
Uranium is widely used in the military for non-radioactive purposes. The metal is not only highly flammable but also hard and very dense thus making it a suitable choice for high density penetrating artillery for military ordnance. Bullets made from uranium have the ability to penetrate armored vehicles. It is also commonly used in medical and aircraft equipment to shield off devices that generate radiation. Uranium is also used in the manufacturing of nuclear bombs. Russia and the United States produced large numbers of uranium nuclear bombs during the cold war. However, the numbers have greatly reduced since then.
The first two uranium nuclear bombs were called "Fat Man" and " "The Little Boy" which were dropped in Hiroshima. However, uranium bombs are not common today and the mineral was also used in the production of glow in the dark material, dinnerware, and glass. Glass made from uranium illuminated a bright green glow when placed under UV light and was mostly used as platter and party tray novelties. Currently, uranium is used in the civilian sector as a fuel for nuclear power plants. Theoretically, about 2 pounds of uranium-235 can produce around 20 terajoules which are equivalent to the energy produced by 1500 tons of coal.
Top Uranium Consuming Countries
As of 2015, the top consuming country of uranium in the world was the United States, consuming almost 18.7 thousand metric tons of uranium. Most of the uranium consumed by the United States is locally mined and used for fueling nuclear reactors that are used in the generation of electricity. France is the second leading consumer, having consumed an estimated 9.23 thousand metric tons of uranium in 2015. France consumed half of what the United States consumed in that same year. China followed closely behind France as the third largest consuming country of uranium in 2015. The country consumed about 8.16 thousand metric tons.
Trends In The Consumption Of Uranium
Currently, the annual worldwide consumption of uranium is about 190 million pounds while its global extraction is 140 million pounds leaving behind a deficit of 50 million pounds. The uranium mining industry projects that the demand for uranium will significantly grow over the next decade as a result of an increase in the establishment of new reactors due to the global demand for electricity. Researchers deduce that the newly found thirst for uranium will only be quenched by freshly mined uranium.