Naomi Luxford    nl9002@bristol.ac.uk    University of Bristol, Chemistry Dept.

Uranium is the 48th most abundant element in natural crustal rock.  It is very hard, dense, silvery radioactive element.  It was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist.  He isolated uranium oxide while analyzing pitchblende samples from silver mines in Bohemia (now in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic).

For many years uranium was primarily used as a colourant for ceramic glass and tinting in early photography.  Its radioactive properties were not recognized until 1866 and the potential use as an energy source not realized until the mid 20th century. 

Uranium is now used to power around 442 nuclear reactors worldwide that produce approximately 23% of the worlds electricity.  1 ton of natural uranium provides 40 million kilowatt hours of electricity, this is equivalent to 16000 tons of coal or 80000 barrels of oil.  It can also be used for medical, industrial and defence purposes.