Researchers Fish Yellowcake Uranium From the Sea With a Piece of Yarn

Wave723 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: Researchers at the U.S. Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and LCW Supercritical Technologies made use of readily available acrylic fibers to pull five grams of yellowcake — a powdered form of uranium used to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors — from seawater. The milestone, announced in mid-June, follows seven years of work and a roughly US $25 million investment by the federal energy agency. Another $1.15 million is being channeled to LCW as it attempts to scale up the technique for commercial use. The effort builds on work by Japanese researchers in the late 1990s and was prompted by interest in finding alternative sources of uranium for a future time when terrestrial sources are depleted. “[U]ranium in seawater shows up in concentrations of around 3.3 parts per billion,” the report notes. “With a total volume estimated at more than 4 billion tons, there is around 500 times more uranium in seawater than in land-based sources.”

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