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An ensuing arms race during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union produced tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that used uranium metal and uranium-derived plutonium-239.The security of those weapons and their fissile material following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 is an ongoing concern for public health and safety.In a nuclear reactor, such a chain reaction is slowed and controlled by a neutron poison, absorbing some of the free neutrons.Such neutron absorbent materials are often part of reactor control rods (see nuclear reactor physics for a description of this process of reactor control).This generates the heat in nuclear power reactors, and produces the fissile material for nuclear weapons.Depleted uranium ( Uranium is used as a colorant in uranium glass, producing lemon yellow to green colors.When refined, uranium is a silvery white, weakly radioactive metal.

In sufficient concentration, these isotopes maintain a sustained nuclear chain reaction.Uranium-235 was the first isotope that was found to be fissile.Other naturally occurring isotopes are fissionable, but not fissile.The 1789 discovery of uranium in the mineral pitchblende is credited to Martin Heinrich Klaproth, who named the new element after the planet Uranus.Eugène-Melchior Péligot was the first person to isolate the metal and its radioactive properties were discovered in 1896 by Henri Becquerel.