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Rare earth elements

  1. Feb 13, 2012 #1
    How are rare earth elements and minerals extracted from nuclear waste?
    And I know that some people are saying that there is a low supply of rare earth elements needed in high tech manufacturing, could that shortage be solved by extracting these rare elements from nuclear waste?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2012 #2
    There's no shortage of the elements themselves, IIRC. We have plenty of them in the US. The trouble is that we stopped mining them and restarting that sort of mining operation on a large scale requires that a great deal of inertia be overcome. The Chinese never stopped mining them, so they have a fully operational system in place that would be hard to catch up with.
  4. Feb 13, 2012 #3


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    Extraction of rare earth elements could be done chemically in wet process or pyrochemically (in a nonaqueous system).

    http://www.inl.gov/technicalpublications/Documents/3303742.pdf [Broken]

    However, one detriment to that plan is that some of the isotopes are still radioactive.

    The availability of RE elements is largely an economic issue than a technical issue. China has a huge supply and they can undercut the market.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  5. Feb 13, 2012 #4
    Its an economic and a military issue. A poor man sells whatever he can part with whenever he can, while the rich man maintains stockpiles for emergencies and sells whenever the price goes up. The US is wealthy so it often only encourages selling specific resources when the price goes up. For example, seafood farming is now a 70 billion dollar industry in the US. The government saw the world supplies diminishing and at the appropriate time encouraged growth in aquaculture. Some rare earths are more rare then others and demand for them is projected to increase dramatically in the coming decades.
  6. Feb 13, 2012 #5


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  7. Feb 13, 2012 #6


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    Let's put your question in perspective. The world production of rare earth elements is about 70,000 tons/year. The total world inventory of high-level wast eis about 65,000 tons. So even if 10% of it is rare earths (which I doubt) and you reprocessed all of it, you would only generate about one months supply. Does this sound worth it to you?
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