Posts Tagged ‘artisanal mining’


Refining Uranium by the PUREX Process

September 18, 2009

PUREX_0PUREX is the major chemical technique for recovering uranium from spent nuclear fuel. Based on the highly-selective extraction of uranyl nitrate from aqueous solution by tributyl phosphate  (TBP) in a nonpolar organic solvent, the technique is straightforward for home chemists to exploit in order to refine their personal uranium stockpiles.  The photo illustrates the supplies used in the following procedure: nitric acid, tri-n-butyl phosphate (from, Kleen-Strip 1-K kerosene (Home Depot), and 4.8 g of homemade uranyl oxide.

Caution: the PUREX procedure involves intimately contacting nitric acid with highly-flammable organic material!  Work with small quantities.  Concentrated acid will form explosive oils, so always dilute it to 6M or less.  This discussion presupposes essential safety understanding of the chemicals and techniques involved.

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New Crusher for Uranium Processing

September 11, 2009

crusherTime to kick it up a notch in the uranium kitchen, since I got tired of crushing ore solely by hand with a hammer.  The new equipment to turn big rocks into very small rocks consists of a three-inch jaw crusher made by Al Yates, coupled to a 3.75-horsepower Briggs & Stratton Model #094202 gas engine.  To match the engine’s 3600 RPM at full throttle down to a safe speed at the crusher cam (and store some rotational energy for particularly resistant rocks), a 1.75″ pulley is used on the engine shaft and a heavy 11.75″ cast-iron pulley on the crusher shaft (both from McMaster-Carr).  The belt is a standard A50 size.  The whole deal is mounted on a wooden base.

This crusher can produce about 15 kg (a two-gallon pail) per hour of fine rock flour from 1-3″ Utah uranium ore.  It would take many tedious days to accomplish this with a hammer, seives, and a ball mill.  Now the slow step in my artisanal mining and processing scheme is acid leaching, and the attendant gravity filtration of sediment in the leachate.

Coming up soon…a look at the PUREX process—solvent extraction of uranyl nitrate into an organic phase.

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