More than four billion tons of uranium present in the oceans, can help provide energy to our city to "the next 10,000 years," according to the US Department of Energy.
The element can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants, although it is quite difficult to extract. The Department of Energy is funding a project involving scientists from laboratories and universities throughout the United States, and for the last five years they have made progress on the road to a successful extraction of uranium from the ocean using special absorbent fibers.
People have tried to extract the uranium from the ocean for 50 years. Japanese scientists in the 1990's were most similar to the target with the development of absorbent materials or materials that can retain molecules on their surface. Based on these theories, scientists from the United States working on the absorbent material, which reduces the production costs of uranium "in three or four times».
The absorbent material is made of "braided polyethylene fibers", which consists of a coating chemical amidoximes. Amidoxime attracts uranium dioxide, which adheres to the fibers. Then scientists use for acidizing uranium, which is collected in the form of uranyl ion. uranyl ions are processed before they can become the fuel for nuclear power plants.
The project involves chemists, marine scientists, chemical engineers and economists, and the findings were published in the Journal of Industrial & amp; Engineering Chemistry Research in April. The magazine also highlights the part of the Chinese and Japanese scientists.
Phillip Britt (Phillip Britt), Director of the Department of Chemical Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said: "In order to nuclear power remained a sustainable source of energy, should be available economically viable and safe source of nuclear fuel. This achievement reflects the significant advances that have been made by researchers all over the world, to the oceans could provide us with a secure energy future. »
"Although the process is still inefficient and expensive, but the search for an alternative to uranium mining is a necessary step in planning the future of nuclear power," says Steven Kung, a representative of the Ministry of Energy of Atomic Energy, who was not involved in this project. "Surface uranium sources are expected to be visible between 100 and 200 years. We need to find longer-term alternatives. »
Thus, in figures:
The concentration of uranium in seawater - 3.3 microgram per liter
The total amount of uranium in seawater available all over the world - 4 billion tons
The mass of uranium recovered per kilogram of adsorbent material - 6 grams
The time required for the extraction of 6 grams - 8 weeks
The amount of uranium fuel needed to operate nuclear power 1 gigawatt within one year - 27 000 kg.