Industrial markets and products
URENCO identifies four segments of industrial markets for its isotopes: Nuclear applications, non-destructive testing sources, Semiconductors and Lasers.
Depleted Zinc-64 (DZO)
URENCO's main industrial isotope is Depleted Zinc-64 which is used widely in the nuclear industry. The addition of natural Zinc to nuclear reactor cooling water inhibits corrosion and the subsequent generation of radioactive Cobalt-60, thus acting to reduce worker radiation exposure. However, natural Zinc contains 48% Zinc-64 and as the cooling water is subjected to continual neutron bombardment this isotope is activated to radioactive Zinc-65. This isotope is a strong radiation emitter with a long half-life and thus contributes greatly to the storage time and hazard of waste cooling water. Hence the use of depleted Zinc-64 compounds enable the maximum benefits of Zinc injection to be reaped without the attendant radio-nuclidic consequences. URENCO provides large quantities of Depleted Zinc-64 to nuclear plants in the form of Depleted Zinc Oxide (DZO) pellets or powder for Boiling Water Reactors, and Depleted Zinc Acetate (DZA) for Pressurised Water Reactors.
Transmutation of long-lived radio-isotopes in spent nuclear fuel
URENCO's depleted Molybdenum-95 is used in the experimental process of transmutation of the long-lived radio-isotopes, which are present in spent nuclear fuel. Americium in the form of AmO2 is embedded in a matrix of Molybdenum metal, processed to cermet pellets and brought in a nuclear reactor. The Americium is then transmutated into other, much shorter living radio-isotopes. The Molybdenum has to be depleted in the isotope 95Mo in order to reduce the cross-section for neutrons.
Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) sources
NDT using gamma cameras is an important and slightly growing application of radioactivity. The majority of the cameras use Iridium-192 sources, although Selenium-75 sources are a promising growth sector.
Iridium-192 and Selenium-75 use the stable precursors Iridium-191 and Selenium-74 respectively, both of which are being produced by URENCO.
Increased miniaturisation of chips might require ultra-pure Silicon, Germanium and Gallium material to build new generation semiconductors. Research in this field is ongoing.