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close this bookFact sheet No 257: Depleted Uranium - January 2001 (WHO, 2001, 5 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUranium and Depleted Uranium
View the documentUses of Depleted Uranium
View the documentConcerns Raised by the Use of Depleted Uranium
View the documentDepleted Uranium and Human Health
View the documentTypes of Exposure
View the documentAbsorption of Uranium into the Body
View the documentHealth Risks
View the documentCould DU Cause Leukaemia Among Military Personnel?
View the documentDU in the Environment
View the documentStandards
View the documentWHO Activities
View the documentResearch Needs
View the documentRecommendations

Uranium and Depleted Uranium

· Uranium is a naturally occurring element used, among other applications, in the generation of nuclear power. Naturally occurring uranium has three principal radioactive isotopes, namely U-238, U-235 and U-234.

· Depleted uranium (DU) is a by-product of the process of uranium enrichment (increasing U-235, the fissionable isotope concentration) in the nuclear power industry in which nearly all the radioactive isotope U-234 and about two thirds of the U-235 are removed. Thus, DU is almost entirely U-238 and is about 60% as radioactive as natural uranium. DU can also contain traces of other radioactive isotopes introduced during processing.

· Chemically, physically and toxicologically, DU behaves in the same way as the metallic form of natural uranium. Fine particles of both metals ignite easily, producing oxides.