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Title: Adsorbent Alkali Conditioning for Uranium Adsorption from Seawater. Adsorbent Performance and Technology Cost Evaluation

The Fuel Resources program of the Fuel Cycle Research and Development program of the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is focused on identifying and implementing actions to assure that nuclear fuel resources are available in the United States. An immense source of uranium is seawater, which contains an estimated amount of 4.5 billion tonnes of dissolved uranium. This unconventional resource can provide a price cap and ensure centuries of uranium supply for future nuclear energy production. NE initiated a multidisciplinary program with participants from national laboratories, universities, and research institutes to enable technical breakthroughs related to uranium recovery from seawater. The goal is to develop advanced adsorbents to reduce the seawater uranium recovery technology cost and uncertainties. Under this program, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has developed a new amidoxime-based adsorbent of high surface area, which tripled the uranium capacity of leading Japanese adsorbents. Parallel efforts have been focused on the optimization of the physicochemical and operating parameters used during the preparation of the adsorbent for deployment. A set of parameters that need to be optimized are related to the conditioning of the adsorbent with alkali solution, which is necessary prior to adsorbent deployment. Previous work indicated that alkali-conditioning parametersmore » significantly affect the adsorbent performance. Initiated in 2014, this study had as a goal to determine optimal parameters such as base type and concentration, temperature, and duration of conditioning that maximize the uranium adsorption performance of amidoxime functionalized adsorbent, while keeping the cost of uranium production low. After base-treatment at various conditions, samples of adsorbent developed at ORNL were tested in this study with batch simulated seawater solution of 8-ppm uranium concentration, batch seawater spiked with uranium nitrate at 75-100 ppb uranium, and continuous-flow natural seawater at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), and elemental analysis were used to characterize the adsorbent at different stages of adsorbent preparation and treatment. The study can be divided into two parts: (A) investigation of optimal parameters for KOH adsorbent conditioning and (B) investigation of other possible agents for alkali conditioning, including cost analysis on the basis of uranium production. In the first part of the study, tests with simulated seawater containing 8 ppm uranium showed that the uranium adsorption capacity increased with an increase in the KOH concentration and conditioning time and temperature at each of the KOH concentrations used. FTIR and solid state NMR studies indicated that KOH conditioning converts the amidoxime functional groups into more hydrophilic carboxylate. The longer the KOH conditioning time, up to three hours, the higher was the loading capacity from the simulated seawater solution which is composed of only uranyl, sodium, chloride, and carbonate ions. Marine testing with natural seawater, on the other hand, showed that the uranium adsorption capacity of the adsorbent increased with KOH conditioning temperature, and gradually decreased with increasing KOH conditioning time from one hour to three hours at 80 C. This behavior is due to the conversion of amidoxime to carboxylate. The carboxylate groups are needed to increase the hydrophilicity of the adsorbent; however, conversion of a significant amount of amidoxime to carboxylate leads to loss in selectivity toward uranyl ions. Thus, there is an optimum KOH conditioning time for each temperature at which an optimum ratio between amidoxime and carboxylate is reached. For the case of base conditioning with 0.44 M KOH at 80 C, the optimal conditioning time is 1 hour, with respect to the highest uranium loading capacity from natural seawater. Uptake of other metal ions such as V, Fe, and Cu follows the same trend as that of uranium. Also, the uptake of Ca, Mg, and Zn ions increased with increasing KOH conditioning time, probably due to formation of more carboxylates, which leads to conversion of uranium-selective binding sites to less selective sites. In the second part of the study, inorganic based reagents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH), sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), cesium hydroxide (CsOH), as well as organic based reagents such as ammonium hydroxide (AOH), tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAOH), tetraethylammonium hydroxide (TEAOH), triethylmethylammonium hydroxide (TEMAOH), tetrapropylammonium hydroxide (TPAOH) and tetrabutylammonium hydroxide (TBAOH), in addition to KOH, were used for alkaline conditioning. NaOH has emerged as a better reagent for alkaline conditioning of amidoxime-based adsorbent because of higher uranium uptake capacity, higher uranium uptake selectivity ...« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [3]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
  3. Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
1253238
Report Number(s):
ORNL/LTR--2015/568
AF5855000; NEAF344; ORNL/SR-2015/568; TRN: US1601369
DOE Contract Number:
AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; URANIUM; POTASSIUM HYDROXIDES; CESIUM HYDROXIDES; SODIUM CARBONATES; SEAWATER; SODIUM HYDROXIDES; AMMONIUM HYDROXIDES; SOLUTIONS; ADSORBENTS; RECOVERY; ADSORPTION; NUCLEAR FUELS; CAPACITY; COST; SODIUM CHLORIDES; ABUNDANCE; PERFORMANCE; UPTAKE; URANIUM NITRATES; CONVERSION; REAGENTS; SIMULATION; SURFACE AREA; EVALUATION; RESOURCES; AVAILABILITY; BASES; OPTIMIZATION; TIME DEPENDENCE; TEMPERATURE DEPENDENCE; OXIMES; AMIDES; CARBOXYLIC ACIDS; ORGANIC NITROGEN COMPOUNDS seawater; uranium; conditioning; cost estimate