CHAPTER 5-RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT

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The ore pitchblende was discovered in the 1750's near Joachimstal in what is now the Czech Republic. Used as a colorant in glazes, uranium was identified in 1789 as the active ingredient by chemist Martin Klaproth. In 1896, French physicist Henri Becquerel studied uranium minerals as part of his investigations into the phenomenon of fluorescence. He discovered a strange energy emanating from the material which he dubbed 'rayons uranique.' Unable to explain the origins of this energy, he set the problem aside. About two years later, a young Polish graduate student was looking for a project for her dissertation. Marie ... continued below

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Marra, J. May 5, 2010.

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The ore pitchblende was discovered in the 1750's near Joachimstal in what is now the Czech Republic. Used as a colorant in glazes, uranium was identified in 1789 as the active ingredient by chemist Martin Klaproth. In 1896, French physicist Henri Becquerel studied uranium minerals as part of his investigations into the phenomenon of fluorescence. He discovered a strange energy emanating from the material which he dubbed 'rayons uranique.' Unable to explain the origins of this energy, he set the problem aside. About two years later, a young Polish graduate student was looking for a project for her dissertation. Marie Sklodowska Curie, working with her husband Pierre, picked up on Becquerel's work and, in the course of seeking out more information on uranium, discovered two new elements (polonium and radium) which exhibited the same phenomenon, but were even more powerful. The Curies recognized the energy, which they now called 'radioactivity,' as something very new, requiring a new interpretation, new science. This discovery led to what some view as the 'golden age of nuclear science' (1895-1945) when countries throughout Europe devoted large resources to understand the properties and potential of this material. By World War II, the potential to harness this energy for a destructive device had been recognized and by 1939, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman showed that fission not only released a lot of energy but that it also released additional neutrons which could cause fission in other uranium nuclei leading to a self-sustaining chain reaction and an enormous release of energy. This suggestion was soon confirmed experimentally by other scientists and the race to develop an atomic bomb was on. The rest of the development history which lead to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 is well chronicled. After World War II, development of more powerful weapons systems by the United States and the Soviet Union continued to advance nuclear science. It was this defense application that formed the basis for the commercial nuclear power industry.

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  • Report No.: SRNL-STI-2010-00277
  • Grant Number: DE-AC09-08SR22470
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 978853
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc932490

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

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  • May 5, 2010

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  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2016, 2:56 p.m.

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Marra, J. CHAPTER 5-RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT, book, May 5, 2010; South Carolina. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc932490/: accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.