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Concluded CRP: Geochemical and Mineralogical Characterization of Uranium and Thorium Deposits (CRP T11007)

Success story
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Photo of botryoidal pitchblende surrounded and cut by yellow hexavalent uranium minerals from the La Estela deposit, Argentina. (Photo: CNEA)

A long-term, sustainable supply of uranium (and potentially thorium in the future) is an essential part of the nuclear fuel cycle. It is also important to ensure that the mining, extraction and processing of these resources are efficient and environmentally friendly. A three-year IAEA coordinated research project (CRP) on geochemical and mineralogical characterization of uranium and thorium, has recently concluded, helping experts understand and improve the evaluation of these deposits, with possible implications for better processing and production.

CRP Overall Objective

The goal of the project was to improve the understanding of the genesis of uranium and thorium deposits using new methodologies and geochemical techniques.

Specific Research Objectives 

  • Geochemical assay, isotopic analysis and mineralogical studies of mineralized samples;
  • Improvement of the understanding of the genesis of uranium and thorium deposits;
  • Identification of geochemical and mineralogical constraints on mineralization processes.

Impact

Research from this CRP has resulted in twenty-eight scientific papers and two articles for peer reviewed journals, which are under preparation. Many researchers presented their preliminary results in June 2018 at URAM 2018: The International Symposium on Uranium Raw Material for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Exploration, Mining, Production, Supply and Demand, Economics and Environmental Issues. In addition, eight graduate degrees (PhD and MSc) in Member States were involved in the activities of the CRP.

The CRP has supported research in uranium production cycle activities in Member States. This included:

  • Comprehensive studies of specific deposit types within a Member State;
  • General deposit studies of an international scope;
  • Characterizing and evaluating national uranium resources;
  • Development of field and laboratory analytical techniques;
  • Characterization and assessment of the uranium potential of phosphate type deposits.

Relevance

New geochemical and mineralogical data from the research conducted under this CRP has led to a better understanding of the genesis of uranium and thorium mineralization, improved the evaluation of uranium and thorium resources and in some cases will have implications for processing and production of these resources. The results are expected to enhance exploration programmes, resource evaluation, and the sustainable supply of uranium and thorium for peaceful purposes.

Participants in the CRP expressed interest in the continuation of the IAEA CRP series involving uranium production cycle activities. Some suggestions for follow up CRP topics have included:

  • Characterization and assessment of the uranium potential of phosphate type deposits or insitu recovery amenable sandstone type deposits;
  • Development of analytical techniques for identification and characterization of uranium or thorium mineralization in the laboratory and field;
  • Beneficiation studies applied to the evaluation of processing and mining of uranium deposits.

Participating Countries

The CRP involved 13 countries (Argentina, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Ghana, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Mongolia, Philippines, Ukraine and Venezuela) with activities implemented through 12 research contracts, one research agreement and one technical contract.

For further information related to this CRP, please see the CRP page.

 

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