Monday, July 30, 2012

Uranium: It's Frantic History

     I'm reading a very interesting book right now that  a geologist friend gave to me.  It's called  Uranium  : War energy, and the rock that shaped the world and it's by Tom Zoellner.


    I admit that my knowledge of uranium is somewhat limited. I've never read anything that's in any depth. My knowledge comes from news and that can be sketchy.


   When we were kids in school in the 40's and 50's we were told that if there was an atomic attack we were to go under our desks. I was not old enough to remember the Hiroshima attack. To put it bluntly as little kids during the cold war we were frightened as we didn't understand the situation and our governments were only too willing to feed the public fear of an atomic attack.


    So now to the book. This book tells the story of uranium from the time it was discovered to the present day. The first large uranium mines were in Africa. People did not know what this mysterious mineral was like. The Dutch mining company employed slave labor to get the uranium out of the ground. Another location was in eastern Europe were German prisoners were forced to mine the stuff. There was no concept of what danger there was in uranium. The ore was reduced to a more pure form and became more hazardous. The stuff was shipped around the world in barrels.


    Physicists discovered that the substance could be used to make a very powerful bomb. The United States wanted to use the bomb to end the Second World War but they did not have enough uranium to get the substance needed to produce a bomb. They were worried that the Germans would produce a bomb. What surprised me is that much uranium was found in New Mexico. The mining was primitive operation. There were small deposits and some was dug out by hand and trucked to a large processing plant. All of this was done without any idea that the product was hazardous.


    The first bombs made were tested and the developers were very impressed with the big bang. There was no idea of the dangers of radiation. People were very close to the detonation site. They were only concentrating on the power.


   Since the cold war there has been more emphasis on producing electrical power and trying to back away from the abbyss of total destruction.


  I think we are still at the beginning working with and controlling uranium. We have not discovered any way of safely disposing of the substance once it's been used.


   So for an interesting and understandable account I recommend that you take a look at  this book.

23 comments:

  1. what a substance we've been playing with all these years...

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    1. You nailed it . "We've been playing with it."

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  2. Sounds like an interesting read. Like you, most of what I know about uranium is hearsay.

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    1. I will certainly read some more.

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  3. Sounds fun, I suffered through the Cold War also.At a World Food Prize award cermony I had a Russian group follow me to a coffee house and I had a hard time breaking the ice with them,laughing at this later on.

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    1. The cold war was evil on both sides. Thanks to Reagan and Gorbichov.

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  4. Red this is interesting, good thing the States couldn't get enough uranium to end the WWII, can you just imagine? I can't!

    I think that I'll pass on reading any more educational material for a while, I'm still trying to digest a few last readings on this end, quite a few readings, but this too shall pass I keep telling myself! lol So I'll have to rely on you to keep me on the loop and educated on matters such as this for the time being. I'd much rather read what you write anyways!

    Have a fantastic week!

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    1. They had to refine and refine it to get "bomb grade."
      Enjoy your reading. I've been there.when you look back it was worth it as everything else makes more sense.

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    2. Red well I'm glad that the States didn't keep refining then, it wasn't meant to be obviously... thank God.

      I've sure formulated some different ideologies and opinions over this past five years. I love to learn, but really need a bit of a break after this round. The next thing I want to learn has to do with photography.

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  5. Interesting post, interesting subject. I am greeting

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    1. Thanks for visiting my blog. I will find your blog and take a look at it.

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  6. Sometimes the information that we are fed by the government is so misleading it is frightening! I am not sure I could plow through this book, but it definitely sounds interesting! Wonder if they have it in the library?

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    1. I'm not sure about all libraries. We have inter library loans so can get it.
      I know that our government feeds us big lines.

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  7. Good book review, Red. Glad to know you can recommend it to your readers, which includes me. Although with your very good description, I am not sure I need to read it now! :-)

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    1. You should read it and then you'd know what kind of reader I am!

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  8. Large mines here..on the west end of our county. Scary stuff, lots of sick men from mining that ore.


    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

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    1. Yes they had no idea at the time of any danger.

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  9. Interesting on Wikipedia.
    I actually thought that Australia exported "under strict conditions" was the biggest exporter - seems from this Canada is tops!
    Here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_in_Australia
    An interesting read.
    If used peacefully it is clean energy, but rogue states seem to be able to get their dangerous hands on it for other purposes.
    Interesting blog Red.
    Cheers
    Colin (Brisbane.Australia)

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    1. Canada has huge uranium mines in the north. I have nephew who is a surveyor in one mine.

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  10. Duck and cover...yep, we were really safe if we did that...
    So much we still don't know...

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    1. When we look back it was really naive.

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  11. Hi Red - I too remember very well in school, that if the alarm went, we were to get under our desks and scrunch as far down as we could get. We had to practice at the beginning of school year and really, I had no idea as a youngster, why we were doing this - only we could die if we didn't. I remember this practice as being "scary". This was very interesting to read and thank you so much for writing such a great post. Have a great day.

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