• Monday, July 23, 2018

Commercial extraction of uranium from seawater

Discussion in 'Pakistan Strategic Forces' started by Karl, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. Karl


    Mar 16, 2011
    +0 / 184 / -0

    If Pakistan was smart, this research would have the highest priority. Unlimited uranium. Along with cloning Kanupp-1 (which is small but within Pakistan's industrial capabilities) into a 200 MW version it would be a leap forward in terms of an industrial strategy.

    On track to commercial extraction of uranium from seawater


    Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and LCW Supercritical Technologies have created five grams of yellowcake — a powdered form of uranium used to produce fuel for nuclear power production — using acrylic fibers to extract it from seawater.

    LCW, a Moscow, Idaho clean energy company with early support from PNNL through DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, developed an acrylic fiber which attracts and holds on to dissolved uranium naturally present in ocean water.

    LCW is applying for further SBIR funding for a uranium extraction field demonstration, to be led by PNNL, in the Gulf of Mexico, where the water is much warmer. The material performs much better in warmer water and extraction rates in the Gulf are expected to be three to five times higher, therefore making it more economical to obtain uranium from seawater.

    They have chemically modified regular, inexpensive yarn, to convert it into an adsorbent which is selective for uranium, efficient and reusable,” said Chien Wai, president of LCW Supercritical Technologies.

    The adsorbent material is inexpensive, according to Wai. In fact, he said, even waste yarn can be used to create the polymer fiber. The adsorbent properties of the material are reversible, and the captured uranium is easily released to be processed into yellowcake. An analysis of the technology suggests that it could be competitive with the cost of uranium produced through land-based mining.
    PNNL researchers have conducted three separate tests of the adsorbent’s performance to date by exposing it to large volumes of seawater from Sequim Bay next to its Marine Sciences Laboratory. The water was pumped into a tank about the size of a large hot tub.

    Seawater contains about three parts per billion of uranium. It’s estimated that there is at least four billion tons of uranium in seawater, which is about 500 times the amount of uranium known to exist in land-based ores(PDF), which must be mined.

    Mining of underground uranium has environmental challenges not encountered with extracting it from the oceans. And Wai says the fibers, which have affinity for more heavy metals than just uranium, can likely be used one day to clean up toxic waterways themselves. He says the fibers have potential to extract vanadium, an expensive metal used in large-scale batteries, from the oceans instead of mining it from the ground.


    Researchers have successfully used acrylic fibres to extract uranium from seawater in a trial conducted at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The team say the technology, which uses inexpensive material, could be competitive with the costs of land-based uranium mining.

    Yellowcake produced from uranium captured from seawater using LCW's modified yarn (Image: LCW)

    The material was developed by Idaho-based clean energy company LCW Supercritical Technologies with early support from PNNL through the US Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy. Uranium in seawater is adsorbed onto a molecule that is chemically bound to the surface of the polymer fibre. The adsorbent properties are reversible, meaning that the uranium can be easily released and processed into yellowcake, and the polymer is durable and reusable.

    Three separate month-long tests were carried out using seawater from Sequim Bay, next to PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory. Seawater was pumped through about a kilogram of fibre in conditions mimicking the open ocean. The uranium was then extracted, producing in total about five grams of uranium.

    PNNL researcher Gary Gill described the achievement as a significant milestone, showing that the approach could eventually provide a commercially attractive option. "It might not sound like much, but it can really add up," he said.

    Chien Wai, president of LCW, said the adsorbent material was inexpensive and could even be produced using waste yarn. The fibres also have the potential to be used in environmental clean-up and to extract other metals from seawater, such as vanadium.

    LCW is now applying for further funding for a uranium extraction field demonstration, to be led by PNNL, in the Gulf of Mexico. The material performs much better in warmer water and extraction rates in the Gulf are expected to be three to five times higher, which would improve the economics further.

    Seawater contains naturally occurring uranium at a concentration of about 0.003 parts per million. Although this concentration is very low - the average abundance of uranium in the Earth's crust is about 2.7 parts per million and ore grades are many times greater than that - the oceans are estimated to contain some 4 billion tonnes of the metal. The total uranium resources in land-based ores recoverable at costs of up to USD130 per kilogram stands at around 3.7 million tonnes, so the oceans could be an important resource of uranium if it can be recovered economically.

    Research groups in China and Japan are also actively studying methods to extract uranium from seawater. China National Nuclear Corporation's Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy in 2017 signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology to collaborate in research on extracting uranium from seawater, with Saudi and Chinese researchers to conduct a two-year investigation.
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  2. inder

    inder BANNED

    Jul 10, 2018
    +0 / 36 / -2
    United States
    it is great feet if commercially viable .