Module 101 Properties of Uranium
acute exposures to significant amounts of uranium
may result in kidney damage. However, as the
enrichment of the uranium in the 235U isotope
increases, so too do the effects of radiation
exposure in relation to toxicological effects.
Past industrial experience has proven that if there is
a long-term exposure of small amounts of uranium
(chronic exposure), the radiological effects are the
primary biological concern. In fact, for chronic
exposures, a development of tolerance against the
toxicological effects may occur. The principal
radiological hazard associated with uranium is due
to the relatively high energy alpha particles its
radionuclides and daughters emit. A chronic
exposure to these radionuclides result in an
increased risk of cancer, typically in the bones,
kidney, and lungs, since these are the organs where
uranium is deposited.
The chemistry of uranium is complicated. For
example, uranium forms several oxides: UO, UO2,
UO3, and UO4. In general, a sample of uranium
oxide will include a mixture of several of these.
For example, U3O8 is sometimes written as