Thorium is much more common than Uranium. The energy in the world’s available Thorium is more than all the Uranium and oil combined. We will NOT be building Thorium powered plants for a long while, but this metal and its compounds have many valuable uses in the electronics field and for lanterns, etc. In addition, the so-called rare earths recovered have much value. Without further separation, the combined rare earths are called Misch Metal, better known to most as lighter flints (black powder guys, look into this use) It also makes a fine addition to cast iron to make it into the ductile form known as Nodular iron in place of the Magnesium additions normally used. Just a pinch in a pot of molten iron just before casting gives the nucleation sites for extremely fine carbon nodules to form. Add a little Cr and Ni to make HTN, heat treatable nodular, which is as strong and ductile as most any steel. (Cannon guys, ring bells??) .
This process is for the most common ore, Monazite sand, a Phosphate mineral. Other ores will give different outputs of values, depending on composition, but the same basic process will work for all. The first step, as always, is to grind to face powder size, mineral dress to enrich the ore, then digest in 45% NaOH solution at 138C (boiling) in our good old cast iron pot. Cool it off to 82C and filter. The solids are hydrated metal cake of Th, U and RE. The solution is cooled to crystallize the Na3PO4, the NaOH is reused. Digest the cake in 37% HCl at 80C, then adjust the pH with NaOH solution to 5.8 and filter. The solids are Th, U and some of the REs, the rest of the REs are in the liq phase which can be precipitated out. The solids are dissolved in con nitric acid and solvent extracted with tributyl phosphate. The REs are in the aqueous phase, the organic solids are Thorium and Uranium. Stripping with nitric acid yields pure Thorium in the liq. Phase. Remember, everything here, even the fumes, are radio active! They will cook your DNA down to pea soup! Do not try this at home!!!! Have fun!!! Chuck dtiman