Uranium was first found in silver mines in the 1500s in the Czech Republic.

It generally appeared where the silver vein ended, earning it the nickname pechblende, meaning "bad luck rock."

This remarkable element, once considered a waste product that was bad luck, is today used to generate 15% of Canada’s electricity and has a wide range of other uses, including treating cancer.

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about ... URANIUM!

FAST FACTS!

  • Canada is one of the world’s leading providers of uranium.
  • Uranium was first discovered in Canada in 1931 at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.
  • Uranium is about the 50th most abundant element in the Earth's crust. It can be found in very small traces in most rocks and in the ocean water.
  • Uranium is an extremely powerful energy source. A uranium fuel pellet the size of a fingertip has the same energy potential as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil.
  • Uranium is named after the planet Uranus because uranium was discovered in 1789, eight years after Uranus was discovered.
  • Uranium has been used to color glass for almost two thousand years. A uranium-colored glass object was found near Naples, Italy, and dated to about 79 A.D. Uranium oxide added to glass produces a yellow to greenish hue.
  • With a nucleus packed with 92 protons, uranium is the heaviest of the elements. To illustrate its weight: A gallon of milk weighs about 8 pounds but a gallon of uranium would weigh about 150 pounds. A major league baseball weighs about 5.25 ounces but a uranium baseball would weigh over 8.5 pounds.
  • Uranium took some time asserting itself. For centuries, heaps of it languished in waste rock piles near European mines. It was not until the first half of the 20th century that scientists began investigating uranium's potential as an energy source, and it has earned its place among the substances that define the "Atomic Age," the era in which we still live.
  • French physicist Henri Becquerel discovered uranium's radioactive properties in 1896. He left uranyl potassium sulfate, a type of salt, on a photographic plate in a drawer, and found the uranium had fogged the glass like exposure to sunlight would have. He realized that the uranium had emitted its own rays.

(Photo credit: Chronicle Herald)