Uranium ore is mined primarily in Canada and Australia, but also in Namibia, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russia.
The discovery of nuclear fission
Uranium was first used as a colouring agent. In the late-nineteenth century, uranium was found to be radioactive, and since then its radiation has been important in health care. In 1938, scientists discovered that splitting uranium atoms produced large amounts of energy. This technology, called atomic fission, is used in nuclear power plants today.
Rich in energy
Uranium is very rich in energy and can be used as fuel in a nuclear reactor for about five years before it has to be replenished. In terms of energy content, one kilogram of uranium equals 90 tonnes of coal.
Today, some 25 nuclear reactors are under construction in several countries, including Finland, Japan, China, Russia, the United States and India. Another ten or so countries are planning to build additional facilities. Nuclear accidents in Harrisburg in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 have led many countries to reconsider nuclear energy. However, the EU has recently determined that it will be difficult to meet the requirements of the Kyoto protocol (limiting emissions of greenhouse gasses) without nuclear power. Share of nuclear power used in electricity generation is approx. 17%.