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Urenco supporting research into mine wastewater

27 June 2024

A project is being launched, thanks to Urenco, to improve the collection, removal and recycling of wastewater resulting from metal mining activity.  

Our funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) project, which will see research across member states, ensures it can be kick-started. 

It will investigate how tracing radioactivity through constructed wetlands could enable more effective treatment of wastewater and reduce any environmental impact.   

Earlier IAEA research proved that reedbeds are effective in retaining up to 95% of pollutants from wastewater. It has led to constructed wetlands being identified as a way to treat wastewater, which comes from metal mining activity including uranium mining and ore processing. 

The project will utilise gamma radiation detectors, placed at locations around the  wetlands, to analyse the movement of the wastewater and the forces affecting it internally and externally. 

Subsequent findings could optimise the performance and efficiency of constructed wetlands as a filter, potentially leading to their integration into local environments to treat mining wastewater and its components. 

Head of Sustainability at Urenco, Rob Little, said: 

“Supporting this project through our Social Impact Partnership with the IAEA underlines our commitment to sustainable nuclear stewardship by reducing the impact of uranium mining. 

“This research will build on known techniques to improve the removal of pollutants and enable safe recycling of mining wastewater.” 

Director of the Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences at the IAEA, Melissa Denecke, said: 

“We are really pleased that Urenco has facilitated the start of this coordinated research project. 

“Constructed wetlands are a cost effective, environmentally beneficial and efficient way to filter out pollutants, for example, from uranium mine waste water leachate, harnessing natural biological and geochemical processes. 

“This project’s focus will be on developing radioactive tracer methodologies for hydrodynamics studies of engineered (constructed) wetland systems that treat contaminants in mine water and we anticipate providing important data enabling more efficient operation and optimisation as a result.” 


About Urenco

Urenco is an international supplier of enrichment services and fuel cycle products with sustainability at the core of its business. Operating in a pivotal area of the nuclear fuel supply chain for 50 years, Urenco facilitates zero carbon electricity generation for consumers around the world.

With its head office near London, UK, Urenco’s global presence ensures diversity and security of supply for customers through enrichment facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. Using centrifuge technology designed and developed by Urenco, and through the expertise of our people, the Urenco Group provides safe, cost effective and reliable services; operating within a framework of high environmental, social and governance standards, complementing international safeguards.

Urenco is committed to continued investment in the responsible management of nuclear materials; innovation activities with clear sustainability benefits, such as nuclear medicine, industrial efficiency and research; and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers.


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