Abstract

A treatment and volume reduction process for a spent uranium–antimony catalyst has been developed. Targeted removal, immobilization and disposal of the uranium component has been confirmed, thus eliminating the radiological hazard. However, significant concentrations of antimony ([Sb] ≥ 25–50 mg L−1) remain in effluent from the process, which require removal in compliance with Korean wastewater regulations. Antimony(III/V) removal via co-precipitation with iron has been considered with optimal pH, dose and kinetics being determined. The effect of selected anions – Cl, SO42− and PO43− – have also been considered, the latter present due to a prior uranium removal step. Removal of Sb(III) from both Cl and SO42− media and Sb(V) removal from Cl media to below release limits were found to be effective within 5 minutes at an iron dose of 8 mM (molar ratio, [FeIII]/[Sb] = 20) and a target pH of 5.0. However, Sb(V) removal from SO42− was significantly hampered requiring significantly higher iron dosages for the same removal performance. Phosphate poses significant challenges for the removal of Sb(V) due to competition between PO43− and Sb(OH)6 species for surface binding sites, attributed to similarities in chemistries and a shared preference for an inner vs outer binding mechanism.

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