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AREVA signs agreement with University of Idaho to recover Uranium from ashes

News brief


September 02, 2008

The University of Idaho hosted a signing ceremony on its campus in Moscow, Idaho, to announce an agreement with AREVA to use green chemistry to take sustainable development to a new level. A jointly developed process will be used to extract enriched uranium from 32 metric tons of incinerator ash from group’s uranium fuel plant in Richland, Wash.

The ash has accumulated as the by-product of another process that reduces low-level radioactive waste volume generated at the plant by a factor of 25 to one. Through chemical analysis, it was determined that the waste ash contained more than two tons of enriched uranium worth about $5 million in today’s market.

"Sustainable development is always uppermost in our thinking and planning at AREVA," said Joe Zwetolitz, Vice President Fuel Business Unit America. "By recovering such a valuable energy resource that otherwise could have been lost to disposal, and by using an environmentally sensitive process to do it, it’s a win-win result for our planet and for AREVA."

The process is similar to the one used to remove caffeine from beverages and produce certain pharmaceuticals. It involves using a liquid-like "supercritical" form of carbon dioxide in conjunction with other common chemicals to extract and purify the enriched uranium.The ash-uranium recovery plant is being constructed at the Richland site. Plans also include utilizing the plant to process ash from outside sources of radioactive waste generators in the nuclear power and nuclear medicine industries.

AREVA’s Syd Koegler, a University of Idaho alumnus, and Dr. Chien Wai of the university worked together for four years on the uranium extraction project and the two have applied for a joint patent for the green process to recover uranium from incinerator ash.