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Radiological Safety Trainign for Uranium Facilities
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Radioactive Properties cont'd - doe-hdbk-1113-98_reaffirm_2005_040114


DOE-HDBK-1113-98
Radiological Safety Training for Uranium Facilities
Module 101 Properties of Uranium
radon escapes, the subsequent daughters can accumulate in closed or poorly
ventilated areas.
In some situations, pressure from volatilized UF6 gas can build up in small
volumes such as a sealed container or a pipe run between two valves. Line
breaks and leaks will cause a release of the UF6. As the escaping UF6 gas cools,
it becomes particulate, which may have a suffocating effect on any nearby
workers.
Another reason for pressure buildup is alpha particles emitted in radioactive
decay eventually becoming inert helium gas. The amount is only significant for
high specific activity forms of uranium. For example, a sample of 99%
uranium-233 (233U) with 1% 232U creates approximately its own volume of
helium gas every year. Sealed containers must include adequate gas space or be
fitted with pressure release valves. Once the pressure is relieved, the low-
pressure helium gas is harmless.
Hydrogen gas is generated from uranium in water, and this may also produce a
pressure buildup situation. Because the hydrogen buildup may also be a fire
hazard, it is discussed later in this module in the Chemical Properties section.
C.
Radioactive Properties
Uranium in its pure metal form is a silvery, gray metal and is the heaviest naturally
occurring element. There are 18 separate isotopes of uranium. Isotopes are elements
that have the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons. For
example, 235U has 92 protons with 143 neutrons and 238U has 92 protons with 146
neutrons.
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