The impact of the design of uranium extraction plants due to the use of a fluidized bed solid ion exchange loading system

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 805, 1979

D. J. KING and P. M. BLYTHE, Davy International, Non-Ferrous Division, London, U. K.

The development in recent years of a fluidized bed system for use as a counter-current solid ion exchange loading contactor for the purification and concentration of uranium from leach liquors has had a major impact on the design of uranium extraction plants. The main object of this paper is to describe many of the variations that can be applied to the design of uranium extraction plants arising from the use of a fluidized bed loading contactor with a view to providing a guide for the development of a flowsheet for a new uranium extraction plant.The paper has been devoted primarily to the consideration of conventional uranium extraction plants in which a ground ore is leached in mechanically or air agitated tanks. The effect of the use of a fluidized bed loading contactor on each of the plant sections from leach to uranium purification and concentration has been considered.In order to describe most effectively the impact of using a fluidized bed solid ion exchange loading contactor, its use has been compared with the performance that can be achieved with the most common alternative purification processes. The comparisons are made largely on a technical basis, but the effect on the capital and operating costs of the different uranium extraction flowsheets are described qualitatively.In making these comparisons, consideration is given to the effect on the size, number and materials of construction of equipment items and how the quantity and composition of the liquid effluents can be controlled to reduce the environmental problems arising from the disposal of these effluents.The paper also discusses some of the factors that should be taken into consideration in the design of a fluidized bed loading contactor and describes various designs of the elution section that can be used in conjunction with the loading contactor.
Keywords: Hydrometallurgy, Uranium extraction, Fluidized-bed systems, Ion-exchange loading, CIX systems, Leaching, Acid leaching, Carbonate leaching, Solid-liquid separation, Clarification, Purification, Resins, Loading, Elution.