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  • 1 Instituto Nacional de Investigations Nucleares Depto. Química Col. Escandón Apdo. Postal 18-1027 11870 México D.F. Mexico
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Abstract  

Natural fluorapatite samples were contacted with uranyl nitrate solutions (from 10−2 to 10−6M), adjusted to pH 6.0, then, shaken for times varying between 15 minutes to 72 hours, at room temperature. After that, the solid and liquid phases were separated by centrifugation and the solid was dried at 80°C overnight. The uranium analysis of the solid samples and solutions revealed that uranium was incorporated over fluorapatite. Selected solid samples produced by contacting treatments were analyzed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) techniques. XRD patterns showed the growth of uranyl species in the fluorapatite. Imaging by SEM at 20000x showed the location of uranyl compounds in a crystalline layer in the surface of fluorapatite grains. This layer was well defined for the 10−2 M of U-contacting solution, but a saturation value was attained at 64% of uranium uptake yield. In the case of 10−4 M and lower U-contacting solution, the uranium uptake yield was near of 90% after 45 minutes. This fact suggests that natural fluorapatite has excellent properties to immobilize uranium compounds in a solution. Afterwards, the pregnant fluorapatite mineral was regenerated using an alkaline-leaching process. The uranium separated in this way is concentrated and can be handled to a final disposition.