Depleted uranium | Raw material for nuclear canons

Depleted uranium is obtained as a second product during the production of enhancing Uranium that can be used as a fuel in the formation of nuclear canons. The process of enhancement can produce uranium with low mass and high concentration of isotopes than the natural uranium after the huge amount of feed can from the depleted uranium.

The two functions of the mass of isotopes like U-234 and U-235 are larger than natural uranium. The isotope of U-238 has the largest half-life period than the lower isotopes. The depleted uranium discharge lower-alpha rays than the NU.

History of Depleted Uranium

First of all enhanced uranium was formed in the decays of 1940’s. It was that time when the British and United States started to form nuclear canons. After that decayed, the soviet union and the French started their program of forming nuclear canons and having nuclear power.

The DU can be stored in the form of waste that is an impracticable product. It is done with the hope that the process of enhancement is improved and advanced qualities of an isotope of U 235. The recovery of the re-enhancement of wasted U 235 is nowadays can be used in many parts on the earth.

The armies of NATO and the US can use the penetrator of depleted uranium in the gulf war in the year of 1991 and airstrikes in Syria etc. It is considered that around about 315 to 350 tons of depleted uranium during the gulf war in 1991.

Availability and production of Uranium

The metal of uranium present in nature have the following percentage of isotopes. These are U 238 is 99.28%, U 235 is 0.71% and U 234 is 0.0054%. The manufacturing of enhanced uranium with help of separation of isotopes can produce the DU may only contain U 235 infraction of o.2 to 0.4%.

The NRS can define the DU as following ‘ the uranium having a percentage of isotopes of U 235 by weight is lower than the percentage of 0.711’.

The specification of the army indicates that the defense department of the US can use depleted uranium with an isotope of U 235 is lower than 0.3%.In real the defense department of the US can use the isotopes of U 235 is 0.2% in the depleted uranium.

What is Uranium hexafluoride?

Mostly the DU can be stored in the form of solid poisonous crystalline uranium hexafluoride in the cylinders which are made up of steel in the storage tanks that is near the plant of enhancement. Every cylinder can hold uranium hexafluoride up to 127 tons. If the depleted uranium hexafluoride is stored, It can cause risks of environment safety and health because it is unstable chemically.

When the uranium hexafluoride leaks out in the air as vapors, it can react with vapors and form the gas of hydrogen florid. The formation of the plug can slow down the release of gas like hydrogen florid in the air. The cylinder can be checked regularly and repaired if it is necessary.

Civilian Application of Depleted Uranium

The density of depleted uranium is very high and initially is used in the materials of radioactivity as a source of shielding materials and bombs. For example, used as shielding of cameras and radiography in industries.

Used as a shield

The DU can be used as a shield in cameras to protect the persons or organisms from the source of gamma rays. The shield of uranium is supported and with this in the foam of polyurethanes for oxidation mechanical and thermal protection.

Source of coloring

The uses of products of the consumer as incorporated in the (dental percilian). The reagents of uranium are used in the laboratories of chemistry. Natural and depleted uranium both are used as the material of coloration in glass in the era of the 19th and 20th centuries.


Mostly the army can use 30mm depleted uranium as an ordinance. The marine corps in the US can use 25mm depleted uranium in round fires, gunships of helicopters as weapons and in cobra.

The depleted uranium can also be used n the penetrators of kinetic energy. It is about 120mm. Depleted uranium is combustible and self sharpeners, so it can be selected as penetrators.

The components of depleted uranium vary in different ammunition. Such as in 30mm is 280gm, in 25mm is 200gm, in 20mm, is 180gm, in 105mm is 3.5kg and in 120mm is 405kg in the penetrators. Depleted uranium is used in forming mines and grenades.

Depleted uranium applications in health

Chemical toxicity

The depleted uranium has chemical toxicity. And it is indistinguishable to that uranium which is present naturally. Natural uranium has a million times larger radiological exposure than the depleted uranium.

And the kidney is considered as the main organ that can be targeted. The factors of depleted uranium that affect health can be determined by us, it may be external or internal.

In the internal process of depleted uranium, there are three major ways can occur. These are the contamination of the rooted components’ intake and inhalation.

Its properties are uranium solubility, oxidation, distribution, phase, and translocation. For example, the type of uranium present naturally is less poisonous than depleted uranium.

Military Application of depleted uranium

Armor plate

Depleted uranium has a very high density. Due to high density of depleted uranium, it is used in armor tanks in between the sheets of armor the plate that is made up of steel.

Nuclear weapons

DU is used in nuclear bombs as a source of the reflector of the neutron. As temper with a high density like depleted uranium makes for more powerful long-lasting.

Radiological hazards

Radioactive pollution can occur. The alpha rays can form the primary danger of radiation, which is present in purely form UD. The reason is that in the air it can go far away and can not be penetrated by clothes.

After a long time, the alpha rays of purely formed DU can release the beta particles. The rate of beta particles is the same as alpha particles.

It is estimated that the dangers of radiation are smaller then the chemical dangers.

Reviewed by:
Dr. Muhammad Adnan Asghar (Ph.D.)

Chinese Academy of Sciences Fuzhou, Fujian

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