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Uranium Mining and Enrichment

Uranium Processing

Uranium occurs in a variety of ores around the world. After mining, uranium is concentrated as an oxide (U3O8) with a yellowish color, called "yellowcake."

Yellow Cake
Uranium Oxide (Yellow Cake)

The enrichment process used in the United States involves combining the uranium with fluorine to make uranium hexafluoride (UF6) followed by gaseous diffusion. The UF6 output from gaseous diffusion is in two streams - one is increased, or enriched, in its percentage of U-235, and the other is reduced, or depleted, in its percentage of U-235. The depleted uranium hexafluoride product is referred to as "depleted UF6." After gaseous diffusion, the enriched uranium hexafluoride is subjected to further processing, while the depleted UF6 is generally stored.

The graphic below summarizes the processing of uranium from mining to use as a reactor fuel.

Uranium Processing
Uranium - From Ore to Reactor Fuel

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