Thursday, May 13, 2010

Uranium Extraction from Ore

Using the Alkaline Extraction method, remove the Uranium from Carnotite Uranium ore to produce Uranyl Tricarbonate. Part 1 of 2 experiments.

Uranium Extraction from bulk Carnotite/Gummite Uranium Ore

The Uranium contained in bulk Carnotite and associated Uranium ores can be easily extracted to form various Uranium compounds.

  • Typical Carnotite/Gummite Uranium ore. Uranium ore is available in bulk form from United Nuclear Scientific.

  • Use a hammer or rock crusher to smash the rock into a granular form.
  • Wear proper safety equipment (gloves, dust mask, eye protection) when breaking the rock so you don't get rock fragments in your eye, or inhale piles of ore dust.
  • Sift the crushed rock through a screen (a window screen or a spaghetti strainer will do).
  • This will separate the large chunks from the fine, granular material.

  • Weigh out 300 grams of the fine granular ore.

  • Pour the 300 grams of fine ore into the barrel of your Ball Mill.
  • A hard milling media is required, such as steel balls which are used here.

  • Place the barrel on the mill and let it run for approximately 2 hours.
  • This will reduce the ore into a very fine dust.
  • This is necessary so the extraction chemicals will be able to react with the ore material.
  • If Ball Milling is not done, very little Uranium will be extracted.

  • After 2 hours of milling, the ore is as fine as Talcum powder.

  • Separate the steel balls from the powdered ore by using either a magnet to pull out the balls, or dumping the barrel contents through a strainer.

  • Certain types of Uranium ore (Pitchblende, Uraninite) can be simply extracted with Nitric Acid. However, Carnotite and its associated matrix minerals are far too alkaline for Acid extraction and many of the minor Uranium ores will not dissolve in acid. Alkaline extraction is called for when dealing with Carnotite ore.
  • To begin, you'll need 200 grams of powdered Uranium ore, 50 grams of Sodium Carbonate, 25 grams of Sodium Bicarbonate (use Arm & Hammer Baking Soda) and 1000 ml of water.
  • Place a large flask with the 1000 ml of water in it on a magnetic stirrer/hot plate, drop in a spinbar and heat to about 70-80° C.
  • Set the stir speed to maximum and slowly add each ingredient into the water while it is being stirred & heated. Let the mixture heat & stir overnight.

  • The next day, turn off the hot plate/stirrer and set the flask aside to cool and settle for 1 hour.
  • After an hour, the heavy sediment will sink to the bottom leaving the cloudy extracted Uranium in a carbonate solution floating on top.

  • Pour the cloudy Uranium solution through a fine filter being careful not to let the bottom sediment to stir up or get into the filter.

  • The finished product will be a bright, clear yellow liquid: Uranyl Tricarbonate.
  • In our next experiment, we'll use Kerosene and the Solvent Extraction method to remove the carbonate from the Uranium.

Part 2 of this experiment, regarding uranium solvent extraction was never published, but there was this note:

The second step in the extraction process requires a mixture of Kerosene and Sulfuric acid. Due to the difficulty in obtaining and shipping Sulfuric Acid (it can only be shipped via freight truck) we're working on a way around using the corrosive acid to complete the reaction. Unfortunately, we're currently very busy with various Government contracts and probably won't have a chance to get back to devoting time to this experiment until January. Those that are familiar with both chemistry and the extraction process might want to try a strong solution of Sodium Bisulfate (in place of the Sulfuric Acid) mixed with deodorized Kerosene.

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