Radiological Safety Traning for Uranium Facilities
Module 102 - The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
II. MODULE 102 - The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Identify t he sourc es and us es of ura nium.
Identify the various processes involved in the nuclear fuel cycle.
B. Importance of Uranium
Uranium is a naturally occurring element used primarily for producing energy with nuclear reactors
and developing nuclear weapons. It is also used for armor plating (depleted uranium), radiation
shielding, and counterweights.
Historically, uranium was used for hundreds of years to color glass and as a glaze for tile and pottery.
Bright orange "Fiesta-ware" dinner plates were prized for their color without any awareness of their
radioactivity. These plates are no longer produced, but are now collectors' items among those in the
nuclear industry and others. Typically, the dose rate is about 5 mrem/hr (0.05 mSv/hr) on contact
with these plates.
The original discovery of radioactivity involved uranium. In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that
uranium w ould cau se photo graphic film to be come fogged because of radio active e missions . Some
of these emissions were even more penetrating that the "X rays" that Wilhelm Roentgen had
discovered a year earlier.
Later investigators, such as Marie Curie, isolated other radioactive elements from uranium ores.
These elements are produced from the radioactive decay of uranium. The radioactive emission of an
alpha particle causes uranium to change into thorium. Thorium goes on to decay to other elements,
and so on, until a stable element such as lead is reached.
Radium and radon are the two most well-known radioactive decay products of uranium. Radium was
once used for luminous instrument dials and other products. Radon is a heavy radioactive gas that