How To Produce Uranium From SeaWater

For the first time, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and LCW Supercritical Technologies have created five grams of yellowcake — a powdered form of uranium used to produce fuel for nuclear power production — using acrylic fibers to extract it from seawater.


This is a significant milestone,” said Gary Gill, a researcher at PNNL, a Department of Energy national laboratory, and the only one with a marine research facility, located in Sequim, Wash. “It indicates that this approach can eventually provide commercially attractive nuclear fuel derived from the oceans — the largest source of uranium on earth.”

That’s where LCW, a Moscow, Idaho clean energy company comes in. LCW with early support from PNNL through DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, developed an acrylic fiber which attracts and holds on to dissolved uranium naturally present in ocean water.

We have chemically modified regular, inexpensive yarn, to convert it into an adsorbent which is selective for uranium, efficient and reusable,” said Chien Wai, president of LCW Supercritical Technologies. “PNNL‘s capabilities in evaluating and testing the material, have been invaluable in moving this technology forward.”

The adsorbent material is inexpensive, according to Wai. In fact, he said, even waste yarn can be used to create the polymer fiber. The adsorbent properties of the material are reversible, and the captured uranium is easily released to be processed into yellowcake. An analysis of the technology suggests that it could be competitive with the cost of uranium produced through land-based mining.