Depleted uranium technical brief


Courtesy of US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Depleted uranium (DU) is a byproduct of the process used to enrich natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors and in nuclear weapons. Natural uranium is composed of three isotopes; 234U, 235U, and 238U (see Table 1) [1]. The enrichment process concentrates both the 235U and the 234U isotopes in the product material, resulting in a waste product or byproduct depleted in both 235U and 234U. The resultant DU retains a smaller percentage of 235U and 234U, and a slightly greater percentage of 238U (99.8% by mass instead of 99.3%). Because of the shorter half-life of 234U and 235U compared to 238U, the radioactivity associated with DU is approximately 40% less than that of natural uranium.

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