Uranium Ore Processing

Sebastian Eunson
Mind Map by Sebastian Eunson, updated more than 1 year ago
Sebastian Eunson
Created by Sebastian Eunson over 4 years ago
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Uranium Ore Processing
  1. Environmental issues
    1. Water management
      1. Aquifer contamination
        1. Water balance analysis
      2. Radioactive decay
        1. Slow, U-238 has a half life of 4.47 billion years
          1. Alpha, beta and gamma decay
          2. Tailings management
            1. Polution
              1. Chemical spills
            2. Excavation
              1. Open pit
                1. Lower
                  1. More
                    1. More likely
                        1. Larger
                        2. Underground mine
                          1. Higher
                            1. Less
                              1. Less likely
                                  1. Smaller
                                  2. In-situ Leach (ISL)
                                    1. Minimal environmental impact
                                      1. Use of solutions to dissolve Uranium underground before pumping out
                                        1. Sulfuric acid
                                          1. Nitric acid
                                            1. Carbonates
                                              1. Dissolved oxygen
                                                1. Uranium recovered as precipitate
                                                  1. Alkali solutions
                                                    1. Used when carbonate minerals present
                                                    2. Pumping of fluids
                                                    3. Porous unconsolidated materials
                                                    4. Advantages & disadvantages
                                                      1. Cost
                                                        1. Waste rock
                                                          1. Radiation & health issues
                                                            1. Surface footprint
                                                      2. Cut-off grade around 0.07 %
                                                        1. Is it economically viable in the current market conditions
                                                        2. By-product from other mines such as copper or gold
                                                        3. Impact on society
                                                          1. Economic
                                                            1. Increased wealth
                                                              1. Tax benefits
                                                                1. Growth
                                                                  1. Mining company payments to mineral rights owners
                                                                  2. Negative
                                                                    1. Industrialisation of rural areas
                                                                      1. Noise
                                                                        1. Effects on local industries e.g agriculture or tourism
                                                                          1. Health risks
                                                                            1. Cancer
                                                                              1. Kidney disease
                                                                                1. Lukemia
                                                                                  1. Birth defects
                                                                                2. Positive
                                                                                  1. Energy source
                                                                                    1. Reduced carbon emissions
                                                                                      1. Jobs
                                                                                    2. Extraction from ore
                                                                                      1. Separation of mineral from gangue
                                                                                        1. Heap leaching
                                                                                          1. Low grade ores
                                                                                            1. Low clay content
                                                                                              1. Low metal recovery
                                                                                              2. Filtration of leach solution
                                                                                                1. Separation of tailings
                                                                                                  1. Tailings disposal or storage
                                                                                                    1. Possibility of acid mine drainage
                                                                                                  2. Horizontal belt, pressure or drum filters.
                                                                                                    1. Purification
                                                                                                      1. Pregnant solution
                                                                                                        1. Precipitation of uranium
                                                                                                          1. Use of ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, caustic soda or caustic magnesia
                                                                                                            1. Solids separation
                                                                                                              1. Centrifuge/filtering
                                                                                                                1. Yellowcake (uranium oxide concentrate)
                                                                                                                  1. Drying
                                                                                                                    1. Calcination
                                                                                                                2. Ion exchange
                                                                                                                  1. Solvent extraction
                                                                                                                3. Tank leaching
                                                                                                                  1. Conventional uranium mill
                                                                                                                  2. Oxidation of uranium compounds
                                                                                                                    1. Acid leaching reaction UO3 + 2H^+ = UO2^2+ H2O
                                                                                                                      1. Alkaline leaching reaction 2UO2 + O2 = 2UO3
                                                                                                                    2. Crushing & grinding
                                                                                                                      1. Water/slurry mixture
                                                                                                                        1. Jaw crusher
                                                                                                                          1. Rod or ball mill
                                                                                                                      2. Uranium: Radioactive metal used primarily as fuel in nuclear reactors
                                                                                                                        1. Two most common isotopes: U-238, U-235
                                                                                                                        2. Hazards
                                                                                                                          1. Military or unpeaceful use
                                                                                                                            1. Can be unclear if production of enriched Uranium is for peaceful or unpeaceful use if organisations not transparent
                                                                                                                            2. Dust
                                                                                                                              1. Radiation
                                                                                                                                1. Gas emissions
                                                                                                                                  1. Toxicity
                                                                                                                                    1. Dangers for future generations
                                                                                                                                    2. Refining
                                                                                                                                      1. Yellow cake and Fluorine reaction to produce uranium hexafluoride gas
                                                                                                                                        1. Separation of isotopes
                                                                                                                                          1. Newer technology: laser enrichment
                                                                                                                                            1. Based on photoexcitation principles
                                                                                                                                            2. Two output streams
                                                                                                                                              1. Enriched U-235
                                                                                                                                                1. Nuclear fuel fabrication
                                                                                                                                                  1. Phase change from gas to solid
                                                                                                                                                    1. Conversion to uranium dioxide powder
                                                                                                                                                      1. Shaped into fuel pellets and heated to make a hard material
                                                                                                                                                        1. Nuclear reactor rods
                                                                                                                                                      2. Reaction with calcium
                                                                                                                                                  2. Depleted U-235, mostly U-238
                                                                                                                                                  3. Diffusion
                                                                                                                                                    1. Use of many porous membranes
                                                                                                                                                      1. More expensive than centrifuge
                                                                                                                                                    2. Centrifuge
                                                                                                                                                      1. Separates molecules with different densities
                                                                                                                                                        1. More efficient than diffusion
                                                                                                                                                          1. Less environmental impact
                                                                                                                                                  4. Uranium enrichment
                                                                                                                                                    1. Increasing the proportion of the U-235 isotope
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