Environmental Engineering Reference
MARTIN HEINRICH KLAPROTH
German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth was born in 1743 in the
town of Wernigerode. He learned chemistry while he was working
for several years as an apothecary—a person who makes and sells
medicines. In 1789, he discovered uranium in a mineral called
pitchblende. He named the new substance for the planet Uranus,
which had been discovered a few years earlier. Scientists did not yet
know about radioactivity. The discovery of radioactivity came more
than a century later.
In addition to uranium, Klaproth discovered the elements
zirconium and cerium. When the University of Berlin was created in
1810, he became its fi rst professor of chemistry. He died on New
Year's Day 1817 in Berlin.
natural uranium is usually more than
99 percent U-238. Only about 0.7
percent is U-235. (There also may be
a tiny bit of another isotope, U-234.)
This level of U-235 is far too low for
use in most types of reactors.
As a result, a great deal of work
must be done in order to get the
right type of uranium ready for use.
First, uranium ore is mined. The
ore contains different materials, so
most of the non-uranium rock in the
ore has to be removed. The result is
a material often called yellowcake,
Workers at a nuclear power plant in Germany
examine part of the reactor.