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Discovered By

Martin Klaproth of Germany

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named after the planet Uranus, uranium is a silvery-gray, radioactive metal. The fact that uranium is radioactive was not discovered for 107 years after uranium was discovered. It is chemically active, reacting with air, water and acids but not bases. Uranium is the second most common actinide metal and is found in many minerals. It is used in nuclear fuels and nuclear weapons. It also is a source for creating other actinides, especially plutonium and neptunium. Uranium is also used in the production of high energy X-rays. Uranium compounds are used in photographic toner and as a yellow tint in special glass. The military uses uranium in very dense bullets that can penetrate tank armor. The most stable isotope of uranium has a half-life of 4,460,000,000 years. Uranium is dangerous owing to its radioactivity.

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Biological Benefits

Uranium has no biological use.

Role in Life Processes

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No known benefits for life processes in plants and animals.


Uranium and thorium are the only naturally occurring actinides sufficiently common that they can be mined. Uranium is obtained from the minerals autunite, carnotite, monazite, samarskite, and uraninite or pitchblende (uranium dioxide). Other common uranium-bearing minerals include betafite and torbernite. It is mined in Canada, Australia, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and the USA.

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