May 17, 2020

Nuclear Power: A clean energy source?

4 min
Nuclear Power Plants

Reviled for years due to the possibility of disasters such as Chernobyl and leaks such as Three-Mile Island, the nuclear power industry is now view...

Reviled for years due to the possibility of disasters such as Chernobyl and leaks such as Three-Mile Island, the nuclear power industry is now viewed as perhaps the cleanest of all energy technologies. Nuclear power plants emit absolutely no carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides or sulphur dioxides. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) stated in a 2009 report, “In 2008, U.S. nuclear plants prevented the emissions of almost 689 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is nearly as much carbon dioxide as is released from all U.S. passenger cars.” According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), “For every 22 tons of uranium used, one million tons of CO2 emissions is averted.”

In addition to providing clean air benefits, nuclear power is also viewed as a more reliable energy source. Nuclear power plants utilize very little fuel and therefore are less susceptible to shortages; plus international relations can’t affect the fuel supply because the plants use uranium which is plentiful throughout the world. While safety is always a concern when it comes to nuclear power, the precautions now required are rigorous enough to actually prevent disasters from occurring in the first place—making nuclear power one of the safest ways to produce energy today. The industry has learned from previous errors made, and nowadays safety procedures in place minimize the chance of mishaps, like a reactor accident or human exposure to radiation.

When it comes to the topic of nuclear waste, the WNA claims, “In all countries using nuclear energy there are well established procedures for storing, managing and transporting such wastes, funded from electricity users. Wastes are contained and managed, not released. Storage is safe and secure; plans are well in hand for eventual disposal.”

Several countries have been successfully utilizing nuclear power for years, and more countries make plans to develop more nuclear power plants. There are currently around 436 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries around the world. The WNA states, “More reactors are being built, and over 200 more are planned or firmly proposed.” For example, France generates 75 percent of the country’s electricity from nuclear power, and has had a long-standing policy for nuclear energy.

The UK government has not always held a positive view of nuclear power. However, a shift in this mentality has occurred in recent years; a moratorium on nuclear plant expansion was lifted just last year. In 2009, the government approved the development of 10 new nuclear power stations in England and Wales. According to Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, nuclear power is both a reliable and proven energy source.

The U.S. has also recently announced plans to move forward with the development of nuclear power plants. President Obama stated, “Even though we have not broken ground on a new nuclear plant in nearly 30 years, nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions." According to NEI, nuclear energy is America’s largest source of clean air. Obama has promised $8 billion in funding for the first plant. As safety and nuclear waste issues are always a concern, the President’s response to the ongoing controversy was, “On an issue which affects our economy, our security and the future of our planet, we cannot continue to be mired in the same old debates between left and right.” He added, “We’ll have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear plants in America.”

There is no doubt about it—the nuclear power generation industry has seen some damaging incidents. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is a prime example of the serious effects of a nuclear power plant meltdown. Considered to be one of the worst nuclear power plant accidents in history, the Chernobyl plant meltdown in the Ukraine resulted in a fire that sent a spray of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere over a very large area. People in those areas saw both short term and long term detrimental health effects.

Another historical nuclear power accident involved the 1979 Three-Mile Island disaster which took place in the U.S. The most serious commercial nuclear power plant disaster in U.S. history caused the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to strengthen safety regulations. The plant suffered a severe core meltdown—“the most dangerous kind of nuclear power accident,” according to the NRC.

Despite these incidents of decades past, the nuclear power industry has also seen an excellent safety record. With roughly 12,000 cumulative reactor years of operations spanning five decades according to the WNA, nuclear power has been successful and looks to be growing for the future.


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Oct 19, 2020

Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process

Scott Birch
3 min
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States...

Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.

Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.

The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content. 

In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.

Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.

"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president. 

“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.

"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.

Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.

Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.

A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.

The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.

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