Uranium is a radioactive chemical element that is used in nuclear reactors, weaponry, and fission research. It was in the “Little Boy” bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima in 1945, the “USS Nautilus” submarine, various reactors in the Soviet Union, the U.S., and the U.K., and even space satellites.
That said, one would naturally suggest that finding and buying uranium ore online would be highly unlikely, if not wholly absurd. Yet, the truth is, you can buy uranium ore from places like Amazon or Ebay, and you won’t have to produce any special authorization to get it.
The purpose of buying Uranium-238, the most common isotope of the element, is purely for research. Teachers can use it to demonstrate its particularly slow decay rate (half-life of 4.5 billion years) to students. The isotope that is used in bombs and reactors is Uranium-235, which is only about 0.72% of the natural uranium ore. Thus, the “238” is considered fertile, not fissile, and it can’t be used in chain reactions. This means that people can’t create anything dangerous to harm others with it. Even handling it with bare hands is generally considered safe, as long as you don’t try to eat it.
Sure, the sellers on online marketplaces like to stick warning signs of “radioactivity” and urging buyers to “be cautious”, but that’s all part of the game that makes the listing so alluring. This is precisely why it’s not only researchers who buy these items, but also people who just want to take an image holding it for social media. In some cases, the seller cannot even guarantee that the designated radioactivity comes from the uranium content in the ore, or if it’s from the potassium, radium, radon, or thorium.
So the answer is “yes”, you can indeed buy uranium ore online, but it’s not the “dangerous variety”. Still, you should handle everything that you receive from these marketplaces with extra caution until you have the chance to measure its radioactivity by using a Geiger counter.