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Cost-effective Recovery of Uranium and Vanadium from Contaminated Water and Sediments

IB-2572

APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:

  • Remediation of contaminated groundwater or sediments
  • Remediation of mining discharge

ADVANTAGES:

  • Cost effective
  • Suitable for ex-situ “pump and treat” and in-situ remediation
  • No long-term maintenance
  • Uranium and vanadium solids recovered for reuse
  • Meets U.S. EPA standards for drinking water for uranium

ABSTRACT:

Tetsu Tokunaga and a team of scientists at Berkeley Lab have developed a low-cost and highly efficient technology for removing uranium and vanadium from aqueous solutions. This invention can also be used to lower the aqueous concentrations of these elements within pore waters of sediments. The Berkeley Lab technology uses pentavalent vanadium and pH neutralization and, in groundwater situations, can be used in a straightforward “pump and treat” scenario to remediate the contaminated water, ex-situ, quickly and efficiently.

For solutions, the resultant water is cleaned to drinking water standards. The precipitated uranium and vanadium solids have such low solubilities that water quality standards are reached without any further treatments, keeping remediation costs at a minimum.

Uranium contamination of groundwater is an environmental problem at many DOE facilities and at uranium mining/processing sites. Research is ongoing on methods for decreasing uranium concentrations to levels below regulatory standards. Many of these methods involve reduction-based approaches where highly soluble uranium-VI forms are reduced to form much less soluble uranium-IV solids. Most of these approaches require periodic injections of reducing agents to be effective. Because uranium-238—the most common isotope of uranium—has a half-life of over 4 billion years, truly indefinite (hence extremely expensive) maintenance is required for these reduction-based remediation techniques to be successful.

The Berkeley Lab method, however, builds on the geochemistry of uranium and uses vanadium and cations such as potassium to speed up the precipitation of uranium-VI into very low solubility solids. The resulting uranium and vanadium solids can be easily recovered from the water and reused as desired.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Bench scale prototype.

STATUS: Patent pending.  Available for licensing or collaborative research. To learn more about licensing a technology from LBNL see http://www.lbl.gov/Tech-Transfer/licensing/index.html.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Tokunaga, T.K., Kim, Y., and Wan, J., “Potential Remediation Approach for Uranium-Contaminated Groundwaters Through Potassium Uranyl Vanadate Precipitation,” Environ. Sci. & Technol., 2009 43 (14), 5467-5471

REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2572

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Last updated: 05/25/2011