Uranium from Phosphate Rock

  • Mohamed Ahmed Atta Faculty of Science Alexandria University


Rock phosphate deposits contain many million tons of uranium, which may be extracted as a by-product and consider as "unconventional resources" Uranium and Phosphorous were originally initiated at the same time as the initiated rocks. Phosphorites are rocks that are made of apatite a mineral with the formula “Ca5 (PO4)3(F, Cl, OH) CaX5 (POX4) X3(F, Cl, OH)” This mineral is one of the main constituents of skeletons of living organisms. The hard mineralized part of your teeth and bones are made of apatite, for instance. Skeletons of dead marine animals (e.g. fish) are deposited on the ocean floor as apatite. The end result is the deposition of apatite as Phosphorites. An important property of apatite is that it can accommodate some Uranium. The world average uranium content in phosphate rock is estimated at 50 - 200 ppm. Marine Phosphorites deposits contain averages of 6 - 120 ppm, and organic Phosphorites deposits up to 600 ppm. Phosphate fertilizers are used in all types of farming fields, to supply the necessary nutrients for the growing plants. These fertilizers contain different amounts of Uranium Therefor, We need to extract Uranium.

Uranium extraction requires the conversion of phosphate to phosphoric acid, followed by solvent extraction. The estimated world annual capacity of uranium phosphates production is about 3700 tons. There are 400 wet process phosphoric acid plants in operation, worldwide. Some plants were in operation in the United States and many others were built in different countries such as Canada, Belgium, and Spain; while in the Arab world Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan that have big phosphate reserves are at the stage of pilot extraction plants. In Egypt, the proved phosphate reserves are estimated at about 100 million tons while the geological reserves are calculated as about 2000 million tons. The average assay of uranium in the Egyptian phosphate ores is about

90 ppm, consequently, the phosphate assured reserves are estimated to contain about 9,000 tons of uranium at least. Egypt phosphate ore reserves are present in three main localities namely; Nile valley, the new valley in the western desert, and the eastern desert along the red sea coast. U- recovered from Phosphate can meet 15 % of global nuclear fuel requirement (U-recovered in 5 days can support 1000 MW nuclear power generation for a year) Sustainable Socio-economic development across the Globe will encourage large growth in Nuclear Technology and used in a variety of other applications.