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December 20, 2010

Scaling up Uranium from Seawater extraction

Japan has lab scale work for extraction of uranium from seawater that is about twice the current cost of traditionally mined uranium.

Japan has proposed various scaling up plans for uranium from seawater They look at the Black Current in the ocean off of Japan and how much materials it is moving. They would put uranium extraction materials in its path and collect uranium and other resources as they are moved past the materials that would trap the resources.

The Black Current off Japan carries approximately 5.2 million tons a year. This amount is equivalent to the earth's remaining inventory of this ore. At present, Japan consumes about 6,000 tons of uranium per year. So even if only 0.1 percent of what flows along Japan can be recovered.


Resources carried by the Black Current
Rare metals  Annual Amount
Total
(unit: 10,000 tons)  Annual amount per cross section of Black Current(tons/m2)
Cobalt            16     0.005
Titanium         170     0.059
Vanadium         340     0.119
Uranium          520     0.182
Molybdenum     1,580   0.553

* Average speed of Black Current       1.75 m/s
* Average flow amount of BlackCurrent  50 millions m3/s



Using large scale engineered Seaweed for uranium extraction

In 2008, The Mitsubishi Research Institute (MRI) recommended Japan mass-culture seaweed to collect natural resources such as bio-ethanol and uranium. In the “Apollo and Poseidon Initiative 2025,” MRI suggests that Japan cultures gulfweed, which can grow more than 2 metres high a year in the sea. The plants could also absorb carbon dioxide and purify the seawater, and can be used as non-food alternative energy sources for bio-ethanol. In April, MRI plans to inaugurate a consortium comprising public research institutes and manufacturers to move the plan forward. Using advanced molecular and gene-engineering technologies, MRI estimates that Japan would be capable of producing 65 million metric tons of gulfweed a year. The annual rate of recovery is 40% of Japan’s total uranium consumption. (19 February 2008, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)

Using polymers, the total amount of uranium recovered from three collection boxes containing 350 kg of fabric was over 1 kg of yellowcake after 240 days of submersion in the ocean. So 65 million tons of seaweed might get 195,000 tons/year of uranium based on a comparable efficiency.

Japan uses 7589 tons of Uranium per year now. 40% of Japan's consumption would be about 3000 tons of Uranium per year.

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