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Uranium Enrichment

Uranium enrichment is the process of controlling the percentage of uranium-235 istopes in a uranium compound. The level of enrichment determines the energy and the the danger of the substance.

Naturally uranium consists of 99.284% uranium-238, with U-235 contributing only 0.711% of the weight. Only the U-235 is fissile, meaning that when it splits in a way the produces a high-energy, high radiation chain reaction.

Slightly enrich uranium contains up to 2% of U-235 and is used in heavy water nuclear reactors to generate electricity. Low-enriched uranium contains less than 20% U-235. When the concentraion is about 3% it is used in light water reactors; when it between 3% and 19.9% it is used for research.

Highly enriched uranium contains more than 20% U-235 and is used for nuclear weapons. Serious security and diplomatic concerns revolve around its production, storage, disposal and smuggling.


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Feds pull plug on Ky. uranium plant at Paducah and 1,000 jobs
Businessweek - 2013-05-24

Urenco, Powerhouse of the Uranium Enrichment Industry, Wants Out
NYTimes.com - 2013-05-28

Uranium Enrichment
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