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Depleted Uranium and Uranium Alloy Properties

Developed for the U.S. Department of Energy by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Background Information on Uranium

Depleted Uranium is a by-product of the enrichment process which enriches the naturally occurring U-235 isotope for the production of fuel for nuclear reactors. Depleted uranium is available from government sources mainly in the form of uranium hexafluoride. The amount of depleted uranium available is in excess of 650,000 metric tons of hexafluoride.

Metallic uranium is moderately strong and ductile. It can be cast, formed and welded by a variety of processes. Its chief characteristic which separates it from other common metal is its very high density, 19 g/cm3. Uranium is frequently chosen for use over the few other highly dense metals because it is more workable than tungsten and much cheaper than gold or platinum. It is substituted for lead when very high densities are required and space is at a premium.

Uranium metal readily oxidizes in dry and moist atmospheres and this characteristic has fueled significant investigation into alloys which would retain or enhance most of natural uranium's desirable characteristics, while reducing the potential for oxidation. The Properties and Applications of Heat-Treated Uranium Alloys (Ref 1) table lists some of the most promising alloys and their major properties. The Other Uranium Alloys table lists most of the major alloy systems identified to date.

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