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Uranium is element number 92 on the periodic table. It is one of the heaviest elements found in nature, most commonly in the relatively stable Uranium-238 isotope. Lighter isotopes of uranium, such as U-235, U-233, and U-232, are unstable and prone to nuclear fission.

Unstable isotopes of uranium are used as fuel for nuclear reactors and as payload for nuclear weapons. Preparing uranium for use as a nuclear weapon requires that it be highly "enriched" by separating the unstable atoms from the more stable U-238 atoms using specialized centrifuges. Uranium can also be enriched (to a lesser degree) for use in nuclear reactors, although not all reactor designs require enriched fuel.

Depleted Uranium is elemental Uranium-238 that is left over after all of the fissile isotopes have been removed from the material. Depleted uranium is used in some types of modern armor-piercing ammunition. It has several properties that make it ideal for penetrating armor:

  • High density, giving it greater momentum
  • Self-sharpening, maintaining a penetrating point when it fractures
  • Pyrophoric, burning at high temperatures when it breaks or deforms

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