Where does uranium come from?

This entry is part 3 of 28 in the series Fall - 2017

Where does uranium come from?


Thomas Borch, professor of soil and crop sciences with joint appointments in chemistry and civil and environmental engineering, and Amrita Bhattacharyya, a former postdoctoral researcher in Borch’s lab, offer evidence for a new, biologic, origin story for uranium.

Most of the uranium they found 650 feet deep in an unmined site in Wyoming is estimated to have been formed through the action of microorganisms – microbes that respire not on oxygen, but on uranium.

Abundance of this biogenic non-crystalline uranium has implications for environmental remediation of mining sites, and for mining practices in general. For instance, such uranium is much more likely to oxidize into a water-soluble form, which could affect its likelihood for contaminating a drinking water aquifer, Borch said.

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