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« Anti-Nuke Dogma Trumps Common Sense On Nuclear Energy | Main | The Murky Future of Nuclear Power in the United States »

The Future of Nuclear Energy Could Be Seawater Uranium

Usually if you want to get uranium, you're going to have to do some mining. However, a new study out of Stanford suggests an unusual and potentially major source of uranium in the future: seawater.

Scientists have long known that trace elements of uranium exist in seawater, which covers approximately seventy percent of the Earth's surface in case you forgot the exact, impressive percentage. Furthermore, since 1983 scientists have been aware of an extraction method. Uranium dissolved in seawater combines chemically with oxygen to form uranyl ions that poses a positive charge. From there, if you dip plastic fibers containing a compound called amidoxime into seawater, you can extract these uranyl ions.

So why aren't there uranium mines dotting the oceans? Cost and effectiveness. "Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a liter of water," said Yi Cui, a Stanford materials scientist and co-author of a paper in Nature Energy. Many, many urayl ions would be needed to run a power station.

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