I certainly agree that uranyl nitrate is better got out of the
laboratory - not only is it radioactive, but it's a strong oxidant. I
suppose that nowadays it's made from depleted uranium (uranium from
which most of the U235 has been isotopically separated), but uranium
238 slowly decays into radium 226, and as the radium accumulates the
stuff in the bottle becomes more radioactive.
You can get around the disposal problem in the short term by
precipitating the uranium as sodium uranyl sulfate, which is quite
insoluble and can be stored in a jar under the sink. By the time the
jar is full... well, I was going to say, you'll be retired, but I've
quit saying that these days. - I can probably find the formula for
doing this if anybody's interested.
I remember a laboratory exercise my freshman year in college that
involved co-precipitating the radium with ferric hydroxide, and
demonstrating with a Geiger counter that almost all the radioactivity
was in the precipitate, which actually (even in 1955) had to be
disposed of as radioactive waste. I recall my lab partner's notebook
contained the unfortunate misspelling "urinal nitrate" which the lab
section man had circled and noted "Oh no!" - The section man, Addison
Ault, went on to become the author of the foremost college organic
chemistry textbook of its time.
But an old man digresses.
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