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Title: Potential uranium supply from phosphoric acid: A U.S. analysis comparing solvent extraction and Ion exchange recovery

Phosphate rock contains significant amounts of uranium, although in low concentrations. Recovery of uranium as a by-product from phosphoric acid, an intermediate product produced during the recovery of phosphorus from phosphate rock, is not unprecedented. Phosphoric acid plants ceased to produce uranium as a by-product in the early 1990s with the fall of uranium prices. In the last decade, this topic has regained attention due to higher uranium prices and expected increase in demand for uranium. Our study revisits the topic and estimates how much uranium might be recoverable from current phosphoric acid production in the United States and what the associated costs might be considering two different recovery processes: solvent extraction and ion exchange. Based on U.S. phosphoric acid production in 2014, 5.5 million pounds of U 3O 8 could have been recovered, more than domestic U.S. mine production of uranium in the same year. Annualized costs for a hypothetical uranium recovery plant are US$48-66 per pound U 3O 8 for solvent extraction, the process used historically in the United States to recover uranium from phosphoric acid. For ion exchange, not yet proven at a commercial scale for uranium recovery, the estimated costs are US$33-54 per pound U 3Omore » 8. Our results suggest that it is technically possible for the United States to recover significant quantities of uranium from current phosphoric acid production. And for this type of uranium production to be economically attractive on a large scale, either recovery costs must fall or uranium prices rise.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [2]
  1. Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO (United States). Division of Economics
  2. Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0301-4207; PII: S0301420716301428
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Resources Policy
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 49; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0301-4207
Research Org:
Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE)
Country of Publication:
United States
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; Uranium as By-Product; Uranium from Phosphoric Acid; Uranium Supply
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1325316