Rocks that are too hot to handle!
The Geoscience Australia National Mineral collection contains over 1000 radioactive specimens which were recently photographed using a 15 mm thick piece of lead plated glass for protection. Due to the properties and emission of radioactive particles from these specimens, many are seldom ever seen or put on display.
Major uses for uranium and other radioisotopes include fuel in nuclear power reactors for electricity generation, medical applications such as diagnosis of patient illnesses or the treatment of diseased organs or tumours, and lastly, in nuclear science research using neutron fluxes.
Australia's vast resources of uranium amount to a staggering 40% of the world's total identified resources that are recoverable at low cost. Why so much? The large number of uranium deposits and prospects across Australia reflects the extensive placement of uranium-enriched rocks from multiple periods of igneous activity. While many uranium deposits appear to have formed during these widespread thermal events, most formed from uranium-enriched source rocks by subsequent low-temperature processes.
Meta-torbernite is often a dehydrated form of torbernite. Torbernite attributes its emerald-green colour to the copper bearing uranium deposit. As a result of these crystalline colours, it is more sought after by mineral collectors than for its use as a uranium ore.
As torbernite emits radon gas which is responsible for lung cancer, it is important that adequate storage and ventilation precautions are taken.
The chemical formula of autunite is similar to that of torbernite in which a Cu2+ cation is replaced by Ca2+.
Autunite is typically yellow to greenish-yellow and exhibits fluorescence under UV light. It is a secondary mineral resulting from the oxidation of primary uranium minerals in hydrothermal veins and granite pegmatites.
Samarskite was first described in 1847 from an occurrence in the southern Ural Mountains of Russia. It was named after the mine official there Colonel Samarskii-Bykhovets (1803-1870), Chief of Staff of the Russian Corps of Mining Engineers.
The chemical element samarium was first isolated from a specimen of samarskite in 1879. It is an accessory mineral in rare earth element rich, granite pegmatites.
The National Mineral and Commonwealth Paleontological Collection, Geoscience Australia and The National Museum of Australia Mineral Collections (specimens).
Chris Fitzgerald (photography).
Steven Petkovski (text).
Dave Champion (scientific review).
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