Extraction of radium from uranium tailings

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 822, 1980

REGINALD K. RYAN and DESMOND M. LEVINS, Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Research Establishment, Lucas Heights

Removal of radium from uranium tailings would substantially lessen their environmental impact because it would eliminate, or greatly reduce, the hazards arising from radon emanation, leaching of radium, dust dispersal and gamma radiation. A process is described to extract radium from tailings by leaching in 3M NaCl solution. The radium can be rapidly leached at ambient temperatures by either multi-stage contact in agitated vessels or washing on a tailings filter cake. Extraction efficiencies ranging from 80 to 94% have been measured for tailings derived from a number of Australian ores.Methods for radium recovery from the leach solution by precipitation, ion exchange and adsorption have been examined. Precipitation as barium/radium sulphate appears to be the most suitable approach. A possible flow diagram for the process is proposed which involves recycle of the saline leach liquor.
Keywords: Uranium, Australia, Hydrometallurgy, Radium, Tailings, Environmental control, Leaching, Ion exchange.