Uranium, Nuclear Subs & the Australian Big Stick

This recent decision by the Australian government to have nuclear-powered…

This recent decision by the Australian government to have nuclear-powered submarines monitor the country’s borders and neighboring seas is a significant development. Plans are readied for the United States and the UK to transfer the newest naval nuclear propulsion technology to Australia.

Most nuclear platforms utilize uranium as their fuel for nuclear fission. U-235 is the preferred uranium used in nuclear power reactors since it is readily broken into two halves. Despite being 100 times more abundant than silver, uranium-235 is uncommon. The majority of nuclear submarines in the world use uranium fuel in their reactors. The primary natural uranium extracted from the ground is uranium-238, accompanied by a trace quantity (less than 0.7 percent) of the crucial isotope uranium-235.

Uranium is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth’s crust in a concentration of 2.8 parts per million. Almost everything has traces of it. It is also approximately the same as tin, somewhat less plentiful than cobalt, lead, and molybdenum, and it is present in much greater abundance than gold, silver, or mercury. Due to the quantity of uranium in the world’s seas, there are only low concentrations.

Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia are among the world’s largest uranium producers.

The mining process has evolved throughout time. By 1990, underground mines had 55% of the world’s output, but this decreased by 1999 to 33%. The number of new Canadian mines began to rise again in the year 2000. Due to the increased extraction activity in Kazakhstan, in situ leach (ISL, also known as in situ recovery, ISR) mining accounted for over half of total output in 2019. For uranium ore, either underground or open-cut mining may be used, depending on the depth of the deposit. After mining, the ore is crushed and grounded. The acidified solution, the uranium, is extracted from it. While it is going through several procedures, it must first be processed before being utilized in a nuclear reactor for power production.

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As a rule, uranium mining is similar to other mining jobs, but the ore must be high-grade for a significant difference. Mining methods include dust suppression and remote handling, control employee radiation exposure, and keep the general public and the environment safe in the most challenging situations.

An industrial-scale crushing and grinding facility is needed to yield all uranium compounds, filtered and treated with sulfuric acid to separate the uranium oxides. The uranium is extracted from the solution and recovered. It is essential to use some uranium recovery from gold tailings to make pressure leaching work. Technicians concentrate the ore and increase the head grade before chemical treatment. This process is radiometric sorting, screening, or a novel method known as ablation. It is achieved by using a physical beneficiation method.

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