nuclei, releasing its binding energy along with more neutrons. If these neutrons are absorbed by other U235 nuclei, then a chain reaction occurs. If the excess neutrons are not absorbed, slowing down the reaction, an explosion results. The first nuclear bomb was based on this principle of nuclear fission.

Depleted uranium alloyed with small amounts of other elements is used for high-density penetrators. This use has been criticized because of the residual uranium left in the soil. It serves as counterweights for aircraft control surfaces, as ballast for missile reentry vehicles, and in inertial guidance devices. It is also the fuel source for nuclear submarines.

The main civilian use of uranium is in nuclear reactors for power generation. Before its radiation characteristics were understood, uranium was used in yellow glass, pottery dyes, and photographic film.

Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan are the largest producers of uranium, with the largest reserves being in Australia and Canada. In the United States it occurs in the Colorado Plateau, which spans Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.


Hedrick, J., Personal communication, 2007.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 2007. Mineral Commodity Summaries 2007.

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