Yarn-like material collects largest amount of uranium to date
For the first time, 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.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Gary Gill, a researcher at PNNL, a Department of Energy national laboratory, and the only one with a marine research facility, located in Sequim, Wash. “It indicates that this approach can eventually provide commercially attractive nuclear fuel derived from the oceans — the largest source of uranium on earth.”
That’s where LCW, a Moscow, Idaho clean energy company comes in. LCW 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.
“We 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. “PNNL’s capabilities in evaluating and testing the material, have been invaluable in moving this technology forward.”
Wai is a former University of Idaho professor who, along with colleague Horng-Bin Pan, was involved in earlier DOE-funded research to develop materials in order to increase domestic availability of uranium, which is mostly imported into the U.S. currently.
Wai founded LCW and, with funding from the Small Business Innovation Research program, worked out a new approach to adsorb the uranium onto a molecule or ligand that is chemically bound to the acrylic fiber. The result is a wavy looking polymer adsorbent that can be deployed in a marine environment, is durable and reusable.
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.
“For each test, we put about two pounds of the fiber into the tank for about one month and pumped the seawater through quickly, to mimic conditions in the open ocean” said Gill. “LCW then extracted the uranium from the adsorbent and, from these first three tests, we got about five grams — about what a nickel weighs. It might not sound like much, but it can really add up.”
Gill notes that 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, 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.
For now, based on the successful scaled-up testing in Sequim and significant production of yellowcake, 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.
Learn more: Seawater yields first grams of yellowcake
The Latest on: Uranium from seawater
via Google News
The Latest on: Uranium from seawater
- The Long History Of Fast Reactors And The Promise Of A Closed Fuel Cycleon June 20, 2020 at 5:00 pm
These would replace other types of thermal plants with one that would produce no exhaust gases, no fly ash and require only occasional refueling using uranium and other fissile fuels that can be ...
- Making The Case For Nuclear Aircrafton June 19, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Nuclear reactors use the controlled splitting of uranium atoms to produce energy. This energy is transferred into water as heat. The water is kept under high pressure, which keeps it from turning ...
- NEW EXPLOSION AT JAPAN'S FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI UNIT NO. 3 NUKE REACTORon June 19, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Officials had taken the unusual measure to cool the reactor with sea water, which means it's unlikely to be usable ... as a "partial meltdown" or "deformation" of at least one of the uranium fuel rods ...
- Global Uranium Supply and Demandon June 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Though uranium mining is making a comeback after a two-decade slump, obstacles such as infrastructure problems, stable access to enrichment services, and environmental concerns still dog the industry.
- Oh Great: Chunks of Fukushima's Corroded Radioactive Uranium Could Survive in the Ocean for Yearson June 8, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Unfortunately, a new study shows that seawater can actually corrode nuclear fuel. No big deal? What if it created a uranium compound able to travel long distances? That's what the study proposes.
- Bowling For Michael Moore – The tricky business of renewable energy…on May 26, 2020 at 12:00 am
not ideal but at a push they can extract uranium from seawater too, if they even need it what with all the waste that can be reused…). In our western bubble are we concerned at the environmental ...
- Ucore Comments on Strategic Metals Complex & Consolidated Appropriations Acton May 24, 2020 at 5:00 pm
The Act authorizes budget expenditures for F2017, including USD$5.5 million for the remediation of historic uranium mine waste from the Bokan ... “Demonstration Project for Seawater Purification ...
- Scientists extract uranium powder from seawateron January 14, 2020 at 11:56 pm
Scientists say they 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.
- Physicists Propose Hunting for Signs of Dark Matter in Ancient Mineralson February 26, 2019 at 3:29 pm
The researchers need to fully understand how much of a background they’ll see from the uranium. They’re also hoping to analyse rocks formed in the Earth’s mantle or in sea water where ...
via Bing News