Enriched uranium

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Enriched uranium is a kind of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation. Natural uranium is 99.284% 238U isotope, with 235U only constituting about 0.711% of its weight. 235U is the only isotope existing in nature (in any appreciable amount) that is fissile with thermal neutrons.

Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation.

During the Manhattan Project enriched uranium was given the codename oralloy, a shortened version of Oak Ridge alloy, after the location of the plants where the uranium was enriched. The term oralloy is still occasionally used to refer to enriched uranium. There are about 2,000 tonnes (t, Mg) of highly enriched uranium in the world,[1] produced mostly for nuclear weapons, naval propulsion, and smaller quantities for research reactors.

The 238U remaining after enrichment is known as depleted uranium (DU), and is considerably less radioactive than even natural uranium, though still very dense and extremely hazardous in granulated form—such granules are a natural by-product of the shearing action that makes it useful for armour-penetrating weapons, radiation shielding, while other uses such as for highly dense concrete are currently being explored.[citation needed] At present, 95% of the world's stocks of depleted uranium remain in secure storage.

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