United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Yellowcake

The solid form of mixed uranium oxide, which is produced from uranium ore in the uranium recovery (milling) process. The material is a mixture of uranium oxides, which can vary in proportion and color from yellow to orange to dark green (blackish) depending on the temperature at which the material is dried (which affects the level of hydration and impurities), with higher drying temperatures producing a darker and less soluble material. (The yellowcake produced by most modern mills is actually brown or black, rather than yellow, but the name comes from the color and texture of the concentrates produced by early milling operations.) Yellowcake is commonly referred to as U3O8, because that chemical compound comprises approximately 85 percent of the yellowcake produced by uranium recovery facilities, and that product is then transported to a uranium conversion facility, where it is transformed into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), in preparation for fabricating fuel for nuclear reactors.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, November 20, 2014