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Inherently Safe In-Situ Uranium Recovery

Sandia National Laboratories

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PDF Document PublicationMarket Sheet (1,140 KB)

Technology Marketing Summary

As uranium mining continues to grow in the United States, so does the concerns over its environmental impact. An approach that may alleviate some of these problems may be in situ recovery (ISR) of uranium which involves circulating reactive fluids through an underground uranium deposit. These fluids contain chemical agents that dissolve the ore so uranium can be recovered once the fluid is pumped back to the surface. New and more stringent standards of uranium traces in drinking water are making mining operations more difficult and costly.


Our technology package has four pieces that integrate a green “leaching” process that immobilizes uranium and other trace metals, a back up decontamination process, optimized well-field design that increases uranium recovery efficiency while reducing contaminated water, and finally a protocol for long-term monitoring. The process is environmentally friendly because the land surface is not degraded by mining or ore milling operations. The mobility of these pollutants can be tied to the artificial oxidizing condition imposed on the aquifer by the ISR activity. Our set of novel technologies will be used to re-impose reducing conditions on the aquifer once the mining process has been completed. This could potentially restore the aquifer to a suitable condition for regulatory bodies would be more inclined to sign off on final site closure plans.

  • Increased safety of uranium removal
  • Environmentally friendly process
  • Restoration of aquifer to regulatory standards
  • Reduced cost
  • Greater efficiency
Applications and Industries
  • Nuclear power & waste applications
  • Mining operations
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 8,708,422
Inherently safe in situ uranium recovery
An in situ recovery of uranium operation involves circulating reactive fluids through an underground uranium deposit. These fluids contain chemicals that dissolve the uranium ore. Uranium is recovered from the fluids after they are pumped back to the surface. Chemicals used to accomplish this include complexing agents that are organic, readily degradable, and/or have a predictable lifetime in an aquifer. Efficiency is increased through development of organic agents targeted to complexing tetravalent uranium rather than hexavalent uranium. The operation provides for in situ immobilization of some oxy-anion pollutants under oxidizing conditions as well as reducing conditions. The operation also artificially reestablishes reducing conditions on the aquifer after uranium recovery is completed. With the ability to have the impacted aquifer reliably remediated, the uranium recovery operation can be considered inherently safe.
Sandia National Laboratories 04/29/2014
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
SD#11506Proposed - It has been demonstrated that the key elements of this technology have been integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements so technology can be tested in a simulated and operational environment. Available - Various license and partnering options are available. Please contact the Intellectual Property department to discuss. 06/21/201010/31/2016

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