It is better than digging it out of the ground!
Scientists have discovered that pulling uranium out of the sea water could be a cost effective method of sourcing nuclear fuel. This technique could pave way for the coastal nations to switch to nuclear power.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is predicting an increase of up to 68 percent in the production of nuclear over the next 15 years hence finding a new and more environmentally friendly source of uranium.
The researchers from the Sanford University of California discovered this efficient method of extracting uranium dissolved in our oceans that are capable of helping countries with plenty of ocean front land and no uranium to collect fuel for nuclear energy.
Uranium is currently considered a radioactive element in the form of isotope U-235 when it comes to using the nuclear energy to produce electricity.
Currently, around 450 nuclear power plants spread across 30 countries chew through more than 60,000 tonnes of stuff every year.
For the nations that do not have uranium deposits, going nuclear relies on importing the fuel from the countries with significant reserves such as Russia, Australia, Canada, and Kazakhstan.
However, pulling it out of the rocks can have a great impact on the environment due to digging big holes and through the process of extracting fuel from the surrounding waste materials. Due to this, the process of finding another uranium source that risks less damage to the environment would make the power source to be more environmentally user-friendly.
It also turns out that the ocean contains a huge amount of uranium that does not require any digging. However, the bad news is that you need many buckets of water in order to get the smallest amount of uranium.
“Their concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of dissolved salt in a liter of water,” revealed Yi Cui, the team researcher from Stanford University.”However, the oceans are vast that if one can extract the uranium trade cost effectively, their supply would be endless.”
Uranium usually forms positively charged ion in the sea water when it reacts with oxygen to form the compound uranyl thereby providing a potentially easy method of selectively pulling it out of the solution.
One method uses a compound known as amidoxime in picking up the uranyl particles while avoiding other positively charged particles.
By coating the fibres in amidoxine, it is possible for it to sweep a brush through the current seawater and pull it when it has uranium compound layer.
However, in their new study, the Stanford researchers discovered several methods of improving the process by bringing it a step closer to becoming an economically viable industry.
By adding the amoxidone to the carbon electrodes pair, the scientists created a binding layer that could hit with the alternating pulses of low voltage electricity thereby allowing at least nine times the uranyl amount to accumulate before saturation.
The team was also able to collect three times as much uranyl in the 11-hour period by using the actual ocean water thereby showing an improvement not just in the amount collected in one sweep but in the collection rate.