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Uranium Quick Facts

A collection of facts about uranium, DUF6, and DOE’s DUF6 inventory.

Over the years, the Department of Energy has received numerous inquiries from the public and particularly from school-aged children, who were interested in understanding more about the Department's inventory of depleted uranium hexafluoride and ultimately, how the Government is going to address the disposition of this legacy material. The Department put together the following "fun facts," as a means of putting into perspective the characteristics of this material, in terms recognizable from everyday life. It is our hope that you will find these "fun facts," interesting and thought-provoking, in terms of understanding the challenge before the Department in managing this material and providing for its ultimate conversion and disposition.

Discovery of Uranium

Uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, who isolated an oxide of uranium while analyzing pitchblende samples from the Joachimsal silver mines in the former Kingdom of Bohemia located in the present day Czech Republic.

Discovery of Uranium Fissionability

It took until 1938 to discover that uranium could be split to release energy, that is fission. This was accomplished by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman.

Discovery of Uranium Radioactivity

Henri Antoine Becquerel discovered that uranium was radioactive in 1896.

DUF6 Cylinder Weight Comparisons

A Ticonderoga-class cruiser is about equal in weight to 706 cylinders of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6). It would take over 70 cruisers to weigh more than the Nation's inventory of DUF6! The Navy owns only 27 Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

DUF6 Cylinder Weight Comparisons

7,142 cylinders of DUF6 weighs as much as a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The entire inventory of 57,634 cylinders weighs more than all eight of the Navy's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers combined!

DUF6 Cylinders

Stacking 57,600 standard DUF6 cylinders end to end would make a tower 720,000 feet tall! That's over 136 miles high!

Energy from Uranium

One ton of natural uranium can produce more than 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is equivalent to burning 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil.

Isolation of Uranium

Uranium was isolated in 1841 by French chemist Eugène Péligot.

Naming of Uranium

Uranium was named after the planet Uranus, discovered only eight years earlier in 1781.

Natural Abundance of Uranium

Concentration - uranium ranks 48th among the most abundant elements found in natural crustal rock.

Nuclear Power and Carbon Emissions

Nuclear power plants helped avoid 90 percent of all carbon emissions averted in the U.S. energy sector between 1981 and 1994.

One Pound of Uranium

One pound of uranium will make a ball only 1.3 inches in diameter. Make an "OK" sign with your forefinger and thumb to see how big that ball would be.

Price of Uranium

The price of uranium was approximately $10.75 per pound in early 2003. By mid 2006, the price had risen to approximately $45.00 per pound. In early 2007 the price approached $100.00 per pound.

U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

There are currently 104 operating U.S. nuclear power plants that produce over 20 percent of U.S. electricity.

Uranium Abundance

Uranium is 40 times more naturally abundant than silver.

Uranium Baseball

A major league baseball weighs about 5.25 ounces. A uranium baseball would weigh over 8.5 pounds! 

Uranium Burning Point

Finely divided uranium burns readily in air at 150 to 175 degrees Celsius (300 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit).

Uranium Density

Uranium is very dense. At about 19 grams per cubic centimeter, it is 1.6 times more dense than lead. Density increases weight. For example, while a gallon of milk weighs about 8 pounds, a gallon container of uranium would weigh about 150 pounds.

Uranium Glass

Uranium has been used to color glass for almost 2 millennia. A uranium-colored glass object was found near Naples, Italy, and dated to about 79 A.D. Uranium oxide added to glass produces a yellow to greenish hue.

Uranium Isotope Proportions

Naturally occurring uranium is 99.2745 percent uranium-238, with uranium-235 (the energy producing isotope) making up about 0.720 percent, and uranium-234 filling in the remainder at less than 0.0055 percent.

Uranium Melting Point

Uranium boils at about 3,818 degrees Celsius (about 6,904 degrees Fahrenheit).

Uranium Nucleus

A uranium-238 atom has 92 protons and 146 neutrons in its nucleus.

Volume of DOE DUF6 Inventory

The uranium in the Department's inventory of DUF6, if converted to metal, would make a cube about 30 meters (about 95 feet) on each side.

Volume of DOE DUF6 Inventory

If converted to uranium metal, all of the uranium in the Nation's DUF6 inventory would cover a football field to a depth of about 15 feet. It would take water almost 290 feet high on the same field to weigh as much!

Weight of DOE DUF6 Inventory

The 704,000 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride in the Department's inventory is over 1.5 BILLION pounds! For comparison, the Great Pyramid of Egypt weighs more than 10 billion pounds.

Weight of DOE DUF6 Inventory

The 704,000 metric tons of DUF6 contains about 476,000 metric tons of uranium and 228,000 metric tons of fluorine. In English, that means over 1 Billion pounds of uranium and over 500 million pounds of fluorine!

Weight of Uranium

A gallon of milk weighs about 8 lbs. A chunk of uranium metal the size of a gallon milk jug weighs over 150 lbs!

World Uranium Production

World uranium production in 2001 was 35,767 metric tons or 78.9 million pounds.

Worldwide Nuclear Power Production

Worldwide, there are 441 nuclear power plants that supply about 16 percent of the world's electricity.