Uranium/Thorium Fuelled High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor Applications for Energy Neutral and Sustainable Comprehensive Extraction and Mineral Product Development Processes

Closed for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code

T11006

Approved Date

8 May 2014

Status

3 - Active - Ongoing

Start Date

22 April 2015

Expected End Date

21 April 2019

Participating Countries

Argentina
China
Germany
India
Indonesia
Kuwait
Malaysia
Mexico
Morocco
Philippines
Poland
Tunisia
United Republic of Tanzania
United States of America
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

Description

Increased demand for mineral commodities is growing exponentially and high-grade, easily extractable resources are being depleted rapidly. This shifts the global production to low-grade or, in certain cases, unconventional mineral resources, the production of which depends on the availability of large amounts of energy, since thermal processes are the most appropriate in such cases. These processes can be sustainable only if low-cost, carbon free, reliable energy is available for comprehensive extraction of all valuable commodities, for the entire lifetime of the project. The availability of energy in many cases will also promote value addition and provide higher purity end products, which will improve the overall economics of the project. These processes are usually cleaner and generate lower quantities of wastes. Thermal processes using high temperature gas cooled reactors (HTGRs) could be a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to the presently used various conventional chemical processes. As most of the suggested mineral deposits contain low concentrations of uranium and thorium, these could be recovered by a thermal process and used as fuel in the HTGRs. The proposed CRP is intended to generate basic data on the availability and characteristics of such mineral resources as phosphates, copper, rare-earth elements, gold ores and coal, as well as process residues such as phosphogypsum and gold tailings, and to conduct conceptual and feasibility level studies on appropriate energy neutral thermal processes in which thorium/uranium fuelled HTGRs will provide the required energy.

Objectives

Techno-economic investigations on the use of HTGRs as heat/electricity supplier for minerals and uranium/thorium recovery from unconventional resources; phosphate rock using the thermal process during phosphate fertilizer production; copper and gold ores during copper and gold mining/extraction; by-products from rare earth elements mining; coal and lignite in coal-to-liquid (CTL) projects.

Specific objectives

Establish a techno-economic analyses method and apply it to clarify if the identified needs (see Specific Objective 1) can be met technically and economically using High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors (HTGRs).

Identify and characterise the heat/steam/electricity requirements of various thermal processing methods (e.g. thermal phosphate rock processing, thermal copper/gold/REE processing, etc.).

Obtain research outcomes of the environmental net benefits (e.g. prevented waste, amount of accessed unconventional resources), the overall power balance of the system (reactor fuel recovered vs. reactor fuel spend) and the overall environmental footprint of the processes.

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