Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology

2012 Edition
| Editors: Robert A. Meyers

Uranium and Thorium Resources

  • J. Stephen Herring
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0851-3_21

Definition of the Subject

Uranium is a widely distributed element which is essential, at least in the near term, to the use of nuclear fission as a source of energy. Uranium is ubiquitous in the earth because of the wide variety of minerals in which it can occur, and because of the variety of geophysical and geochemical processes that have transported it since the primordial formation of the earth from the debris of supernovae. Uranium is approximately as common in the earth’s crust as tin or beryllium, and is a minor constituent in most rocks and in seawater. The average crustal abundance of uranium is 2.76 weight parts per million (wppm), higher than the average concentrations of such economically important elements as molybdenum (1.5 wppm), iodine (0.5 wppm), mercury (0.08 wppm), silver (0.07 wppm), and gold (0.004 wppm).


Beginning with the discovery of nuclear fission , uranium has been seen as a valuable but scarce resource. Uranium-235 (235U) is the only naturally...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Idaho National LaboratoryIdaho FallsUSA