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Uranium resources in EU phosphate rock imports

Harikrishnan Tulsidas, Sophie Gabriel, Katarzyna Kiegiel and Nils Haneklaus

Resources Policy, 2019, vol. 61, issue C, 151-156

Abstract: Most European countries import phosphate rocks for mineral phosphate fertilizer production. In 2017, approximately 5.5 million t phosphate rocks were imported into the EU-28 and subsequently processed. Phosphate rock can contain relevant amounts of accompanying uranium as well as rare earth elements that can be recovered during phosphate fertilizer production. Recovering uranium from phosphate rock is a proven process that has been used on an industrial scale in North America, Europe, and Asia in the 1980s until decreasing uranium prices in the 1990s made this practice uneconomic. In this work, we estimate the amount of uranium contained in EU phosphate rock imports in 2017 using publicly available data from Eurostat as well as average uranium concentrations found in the exporting countries and discuss potential recoverable quantities. Results of this estimate indicate that a maximum of 334 t natural uranium could have theoretically been recovered from 2017 EU phosphate rock imports. This amount of uranium could have supported approximately 2.1% of the EU nuclear power fleets 2016 natural uranium requirements and is of the same order of magnitude as domestic EU uranium production.

Keywords: Phosphate rock; Uranium recovery; European Union; Fertilizer production (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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