The world’s oceans contain more than 4 billion tons of uranium. This is enough nuclear power to satisfy the world’s energy demands for the next 10,000 years. And because this uranium is replenished constantly by the oceans, it is both inexhaustible and renewable. The challenge is coming up with a way to extract uranium from seawater that is economically feasible.
Agilent provides a simple, accurate and precise method for analyzing trace elements in complex samples such as seawater, sludge and urine. Researchers in Taiwan and the U.S. used an Agilent ICP-MS to detect nanogram levels of uranium in seawater and coral.
Researchers in Korea recently developed a method to remove more than 90 percent of the uranyl (oxidized uranium) in seawater. Their porous polymer was able to extract more than 75 percent in six hours. They used an Agilent ICP-MS to measure absorption and adsorption efficiency.
U.S. research also used an Agilent ICP-MS to investigate carbon electrodes as a material to absorb uranium ions from seawater using electrosorption. An activated carbon electrode was shown to have good thermal stability and mechanical strength, but further work is needed to develop a feasible cost model.
Several nations are currently competing to develop breakthrough economic methods for extracting uranium from the oceans. While nuclear energy has safety and environmental concerns, it is more controllable if monitored correctly. Another challenge will be converting the world’s nuclear plants to use uranium from seawater.
For more information go to:
- Uranium Seawater Extraction Makes Nuclear Power Completely Renewable (Forbes)
- Advances in extracting uranium from seawater announced in special issue
- On-line isotope dilution analysis with the 7700 Series ICP-MS: Analysis of trace elements in high matrix samples (PDF application note)
- Measurements of natural uranium concentration and isotopic composition with permil-level precision by inductively coupled plasma–quadrupole mass spectrometry
- Rapid extraction of uranium ions from seawater using novel porous polymeric adsorbents
- Investigation of activated carbon adsorbent electrode for electrosorption-based uranium extraction from seawater
- Agilent Energy & Chemicals Solutions