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Uranium-238 has a small probability for spontaneous fission or even induced fission with fast neutrons; uranium-235 and to a lesser degree uranium-233 have a much higher fission cross-section for slow neutrons.
In sufficient concentration, these isotopes maintain a sustained nuclear chain reaction.
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.
This generates the heat in nuclear power reactors, and produces the fissile material for nuclear weapons.