Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How and Where Uranium is Concentrated

Do you remember when everyone was looking for uranium in Southern Utah? (If you don't check out this site it explains it. http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/mining_and_railroads/southernutahsboomandbusturaniumindustry.html)
Have you ever noticed that uranium mines are all in the same layer of rock? There is actually a scientific reason for that. Uranium is secondary to the rock, this means it was added after the rock was formed. What happens is water is heated up by magma and moves through permeable rocks carrying metals such as uranium. Uranium is soluble (able to be dissolved by water) when water is oxidized (has oxygen in it.) When that oxidized water with Uranium runs into rock with carbonized wood the uranium is dropped because the carbonized wood causes the water to reduce (lose the oxygen).  Notice that the mines  are all along one layer of rock because  the layer was full of carbonized wood. The layers of rock that have this are the Chinle and Morrison formations. In the picture above that  greenish color is the Chinle formation that has the uranium mines.

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