The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received an application for a new in situ uranium recovery operation - the first application since 1988 for a new uranium recovery facility in the USA.
The application, from Energy Metals, is for a facility at Moore Ranch in Wyoming. In situ uranium recovery involves injecting a leaching agent - such as oxygen with sodium carbonate - through wells into underground ore to dissolve the uranium. The solution is pumped to the surface and the uranium is recovered by ion exchange.
NRC chairman Dale Klein welcomed the application. "In addition to the first applications for nuclear reactors in decades, this application for a new uranium recovery facility is a further indicator that the nuclear renaissance is real," he said. Based on industry projections, NRC says it is expecting at least 15 applications for new facilities, including in situ operations and conventional mills, over the next three years.
NRC staff are now reviewing Energy Metals' application to determine whether it contains sufficient information to begin detailed environmental and safety reviews.
The Moore Ranch Uranium Project was extensively explored from the 1970s to the mid-1980's. It contains measured mineral resources totalling approximately 5.9 million pounds of U3O8 contained in 2.95 million tons of ore at an average grade of 0.10% and inferred resources of 89,000 pounds of U3O8 contained in 43,600 tons, at an average grade of 0.102%, certified by Canadian National Instrument 43-101, according to 2006 figures reported by Energy Metals.
Since August 2007 Energy Metals has been owned by Uranium One of Canada. Uranium One recently announced an agreement for the ion exchange resins containing uranium recovered from Moore Ranch to be shipped to Power Resources's Smith Ranch-Highland facility for final extraction.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper
WNA's In Situ Leach Mining of Uranium information paper
WNN: Remote recovery for US uranium mines