Researchers at UCI have developed a separation method for removing radioactive contaminants, specifically uranium contaminants, from liquid solutions.
·Removal of uranium contaminants from mining waste water and groundwater
·Extraction of uranium deposits from oceans
·Extraction of uranium from fissions products for recycling into new fuel forms
·Simple collection of uranium/polymer precipitates from liquid solution
·Increased selectivity for uranyl ions ·Decreases production of hazardous waste normally created in standard liquid-liquid extraction methods
·Increased efficiency over liquid-liquid extractions even at low uranium concentrations
·Eliminates fouling and degradation concerns typically seen with membrane separations
Uranium is highly desirable for use in nuclear energy applications. However, the mining, storage, and recycling of uranium from liquid solutions requires special considerations for efficiency and safety. Current separation techniques rely on liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) or membrane filtration. LLE is a multi-step process that generates hazardous by-products and waste with every step and decreases in efficiency for low concentrations. Membrane filtration uses a solid support that is susceptible to fouling and degradation over time.
Researchers at University of California, Irvine developed a separation method for removing uranium contaminants that can be applied to waste water, ocean mining, and fission outlet streams from nuclear reactors. The separation relies on the affinity of polymers for uranyl ions in solution, even at low concentrations, and has increased efficiency over other methods. The complexation creates a solid precipitate that is easily collected and then easily deconstructed with acid. This method is not only relevant for decontaminating waste water, but is also capable of extracting uranium from oceans and recycling uranium from reactor streams, two challenges inherent to nuclear energy.
Researchers have demonstrated that the separation is approximately 100% efficient for certain uranium/polymer combinations and are currently optimizing the separation conditions.