Insitu Leach Uranium Mining Energy And More Energy Efficient Enrichment

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Acid is used to mine Uranium in 26% of the worlds uranium mines. It takes 9kWh to 33 kWh/kgU to get 1 kilogram of Uranium. At 45 Gigawatt days per ton of Uranium the amount of power from one kilogram of uranium is 360,000 kWh. The current generation of breeder reactors that have been operating for 30 years in Russia has about a fuel burnup of 60-70 GWd/t The Beloyarsk 4 (880MWe) reactor is expected to have 70-100 GWd/t burnup.

China is building a pebble bed reactor (HTR-PM) for 2013 and it should have a burnup of 90-100 GWd/tU.

The United States Idaho National Labs has achieved burnups of 190 GWd/tU for some pebbles. There are more highly enriched pebbles that could achieve 600 GWd/tU of burnup.

Pressure Water Reactors are getting new fuel and modifications to allow burnup of 65 GWd/tU and more.

The Silex laser enrichment process can bring down the energy usage and costs of uranium enrichment by ten times

Neutrons are getting cheaper and that would enable recycling of nuclear fuel in a far more energy efficient process. Accelerator driven processes or new nuclear reactors (like liquid flouride thorium reactors) can achieve 99% burnup and allow for uranium to be used with very little processing.

Acid consumption in acid leach environments is variable depending on operating philosophy and geological conditions. In general, the acid consumption in Australian ISL mines is only a fraction of that used in a Kazakh mine (per kilogram of uranium produced). A general figure for Kazakh ISL production is about 40 kg acid per kgU, though other figures of up to twice that are quoted and some mines are a bit lower. Beverley in Australia in 2007 was 7.7 kg/kgU. Unit power consumption is about 19 kWh/kgU (16 kWh/kg U3O8) in Australia and around 33 kWh/kgU in Kazakhstan.

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