White, PNNL, (509) 375-6904
PNNL tests adsorbent to extract uranium from the
Photo courtesy of Tobin.
When you take a dip in the ocean, nuclear fuel is probably the
farthest thing from your mind. Uranium floats in Earth’s oceans in
trace amounts of just 3 parts per billion, but it adds up.
Combined, our oceans hold up to 4.5 billion tons of uranium –
enough to potentially fuel the world’s nuclear power plants for
Countries such as Japan have examined the ocean as a uranium
source since the 1960s, but previous approaches have been too
expensive to extract the quantities needed for nuclear fuel. Now
researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory and Oak Ridge National
Laboratory are tweaking one of those concepts with the goal of
making it more efficient and cost-competitive. The research is
being done for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear
Japan developed an adsorbent that attaches the uranium-loving
chemical group amidoxime to a plastic polymer. ORNL examined the
binding process between the plastic and chemical groups and used
that knowledge to enhance the uranium-grabbing characteristic of
the amidoxime groups on the adsorbent material’s surface.
PNNL tested the adsorbent’s performance at its Marine Sciences Laboratory in
Sequim, Wash., DOE’s only marine research facility. Using filtered
seawater from nearby Sequim Bay, PNNL established a laboratory
testing process to measure the effectiveness of both Japan’s and
ORNL’s adsorbent materials. Initial tests showed ORNL’s adsorbent
can soak up more than two times the uranium than the material from
Results were presented today at the fall meeting of the American
Chemical Society, which runs Aug. 19-23 in Philadelphia. ORNL
chemical engineer Costas Tsouris presented the research team’s
findings this afternoon, while PNNL chemical oceanographer Gary
Gill presented a poster on the PNNL testing program this evening.
Tsouris’ presentation is part of a larger, day-long oral session on
uranium extraction from seawater. Check out the ACS website (link
below) for talk and poster abstracts.
PNNL poster: “Testing adsorbents to extract uranium from
ambient seawater,” Gary A. Gill, 6-7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 21, Hall D, Pennsylvania Convention
ORNL talk: “Marine testing of uranium adsorption from seawater,”
Costas Tsouris, 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, Room 113 A,
Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Complete oral session: “Extraction of Uranium from Seawater,”
organized by Ben Hay, Robin Rogers and Sheng Dai, all day Tuesday,
Aug. 21, various locations at the Pennyslvania Convention