Uranyl nitrate

Uranyl nitrate is a water soluble yellow salt with the formula UO2(NO3)2)(H2O)n. The hexa-, tri-, and dihydrates are known.[3] The compound is mainly of interest because it is an intermediate in the preparation of nuclear fuels.

Uranyl nitrate
Uranyl nitrate as yellow crystals
IUPAC name
Other names
Uranium nitrate
  • 10102-06-4 anhydrous, not dihydrate checkY
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.030.229 Edit this at Wikidata
  • InChI=1S/2NO3.2O.U/c2*2-1(3)4;;;/q2*-1;;; checkY
  • InChI=1/2NO3.2O.U/c2*2-1(3)4;;;/q2*-1;;;/rN2O8U/c3-1(4)9-11(7,8)10-2(5)6/q-2
  • [N+](=O)([O-])[O-].O=[U+2]=O.[O-][N+](=O)[O-]
Molar mass 394.04 g/mol
Appearance yellow-green solid
Density 3.5 g/cm3 (dihydrate)[1]
Melting point 60.2 °C (140.4 °F; 333.3 K)
Boiling point 118 °C (244 °F; 391 K) (decomposition)
g/100g H2O: 98 (0°C), 122 (20°C), 474 (100°C)<
Solubility in tributyl phosphate soluble
Safety data sheet External MSDS
Very Toxic T+
Dangerous for the Environment (Nature) N
R-phrases (outdated) R26/28, R33, R51/53
S-phrases (outdated) (S1/2), S20/21, S45, S61
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flash point Non-flammable
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
12 mg/kg (dog, oral)
238 (cat, oral)[2]
Related compounds
Other anions
Uranyl chloride
Uranyl sulfate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
☒N verify (what is checkY☒N ?)
Infobox references

Uranyl nitrate can be prepared by reaction of uranium salts with nitric acid. It is soluble in water, ethanol, acetone. It is not a salt, but a molecular complex. As determined by neutron diffraction, the uranyl center is characteristically linear with short U=O distances. In the equatorial plane of the complex are six U-O bonds to bidentate nitrate and two water ligands. At 245 pm, these U-O bonds are much longer than the U=O bonds of the uranyl center.[1]


Processing of nuclear fuelsEdit

Uranyl nitrate is important for nuclear reprocessing. It is the compound of uranium that results from dissolving the decladded spent nuclear fuel rods or yellowcake in nitric acid, for further separation and preparation of uranium hexafluoride for isotope separation for preparing of enriched uranium. A special feature of uranyl nitrate is its solubility in tributylphosphate (OP(OBu)3), which allows uranium to be extracted from the nitric acid solution. Its high solubility is attributed to the formation of the lipophilic adduct UO2(NO3)2(OP(OBu)3)2.

Archaic photographyEdit

During the first half of the 19th century, many photosensitive metal salts had been identified as candidates for photographic processes, among them uranyl nitrate. The prints thus produced were called uranium prints or uranotypes. The first uranium printing processes were invented by Scotsman J. Charles Burnett between 1855 and 1857, and used this compound as the sensitive salt. Burnett authored a 1858 article comparing "Printing by the Salts of the Uranic and Ferric Oxides" The process employs the ability of the uranyl ion to pick up two electrons and reduce to the lower oxidation state of uranium(IV) under ultraviolet light. Uranotypes can vary from print to print from a more neutral, brown russet to strong Bartolozzi red, with a very long tone grade. Surviving prints are slightly radioactive, a property which serves as a means of non-destructively identifying them. Several other more elaborate photographic processes employing the compound appeared and vanished during the second half of the 19th century with names like Wothlytype, Mercuro-Uranotype and the Auro-Uranium process. Uranium papers were manufactured commercially at least until the end of the 19th century, vanishing due to the superior sensitivity and practical advantages of silver halides. From the 1930s through the 1950s Kodak Books described a uranium toner (Kodak T-9) using uranium nitrate hexahydrate. Some alternative process photographers including Blake Ferris and Robert Schramm continue to make uranotype prints today.

Stain for microscopyEdit

Along with uranyl acetate it is used as a negative stain for viruses in electron microscopy; in tissue samples it stabilizes nucleic acids and cell membranes.

As a reagentEdit

Uranyl nitrates are common starting materials for the synthesis of other uranyl compounds because the nitrate ligand is easily replaced by other anions. It reacts with oxalate to give uranyl oxalate. Treatment with hydrochloric acid gives uranyl chloride.[4]

Health and environmental issuesEdit

Uranyl nitrate is an oxidizing and highly toxic compound. When ingested, it causes severe chronic kidney disease and acute tubular necrosis and is a lymphocyte mitogen. Target organs include the kidneys, liver, lungs and brain. It also represents a severe fire and explosion risk when heated or subjected to shock in contact with oxidizable substances.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b Mueller, Melvin Henry; Dalley, N. Kent; Simonsen, Stanley H. (1971). "Neutron Diffraction Study of Uranyl Nitrate Dihydrate". Inorganic Chemistry. 10 (2): 323–328. doi:10.1021/ic50096a021.
  2. ^ "Uranium (soluble compounds, as U)". Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  3. ^ Peehs, Martin; Walter, Thomas; Walter, Sabine; Zemek, Martin (2007). "Uranium, Uranium Alloys, and Uranium Compounds". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a27_281.pub2.
  4. ^ F. Hein, S. Herzog (1963). "Uranyl Chloride". In G. Brauer (ed.). Handbook of Preparative Inorganic Chemistry, 2nd Ed. 2. NY, NY: Academic Press. p. 1439.