Module 101 Properties of Uranium
The Chernobyl disaster resulted
Larger fires, such as with storage drums, are more
in a graphite reactor core fire
difficult to extinguish. Submersion in water will
that burned for days.
eventually work once the metal cools down.
However, continuous water addition is necessary to
make up for losses due to boiling and evaporation.
The principal entry of uranium into the human
system is due to either inhalation or ingestion.
Inhalation occurs either from release of volatile
uranium compound or from suspension of volatile
uranium-laden aerosols. Ingestion can occur when
the uranium is introduced into water for
consumption or the food chain by plant uptake.
When uranium is either ingested or inhaled, it is
removed from the body with a biological half-life
varying between 6 and 5000 days, depending on
which organ has become contaminated. Uranium
tends to concentrate in the kidneys and the bones.
Additionally, if inhaled, the lungs are exposed.
Internal exposure to uranium is controlled by
limiting the ingestion and inhalation of this
element. These methods, along with measurement
techniques, are discussed in Module 104.
Most heavy metals, such as uranium, are toxic to
humans depending on the amount introduced into
the body. For short-term (acute) exposures, the
toxicological effects are the primary concern, and