On-Sea Nuclear Power Plants: New Method For Uranium Extraction From Seawater Developed By Scientists

First Posted: Feb 22, 2017 03:30 AM EST

Scientists from Stanford University have reported that they have successfully developed a new and cost efficient method of uranium extraction from seawater. This method can be upscaled for commercial extraction of uranium that will give power to nuclear power plants across the world in the near future.

It is already known that the world is running out of fossil fuels, which is why scientists are working on developing new energy efficient and clean sources of energy. Doing so will not only help in slowing down the rate of fossil fuel consumption but it will also be helpful when the world does run out of carbon-based fuels.

Nuclear energy is one of the most clean, efficient yet controversial sources of energy due to the health hazards associated with accidental exposure to its harmful radiations. Furthermore, dumping of radioactive waste and its impact on the environment is a discrepancy that is yet to be resolved. In addition, the underground reserves of uranium are scarce. Therefore, scientists across the world are working on developing better and cost efficient methods of extracting uranium from non-conventional sources like seawater, Azo Cleantech reported.

Seawater contains uranium in the form of dissolved positively charged uranyl ions. Though the concentration of these ions is merely three parts per million, the extremely large quantity of seawater present on Earth compensates for the low concentration. The next step is to develop suitable methods of uranium extraction, and it seems the scientists from Stanford University are not far away from achieving just that, according to Engadget.

According to a recent finding published in Nature Energy, lead researchers Steven Chu, Yi Chu and their team have successfully developed an electrified carbon fiber coated with amidoxime, which attracts uranyl ions. Once saturated with ions, it can be further treated to separate the ions and be reused to extract uranium. The present method is the improved version of the previously developed plastic-based sponge-like material that extracted uranium but at a very slow rate, New Atlas reported.

The scientists are of the opinion that the method is simple and can be easily upscaled. If done so, then setting up on-sea nuclear power plants can ensure regular and sufficient uranium extraction from seawater and its consumption for production of clean energy.

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