June 23, 2023

Processing Uranium into Nuclear Fuel Using ISR Extraction

Uranium has been used for decades as a primary fuel source to produce nuclear energy. It is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth’s crust. To be used as nuclear fuel, uranium must be extracted from the ground and then processed into a form that can be used in nuclear reactors. One of the most common methods of uranium extraction is using in-situ recovery (ISR) technology. In this article, we will dive into the details of how uranium is made into nuclear fuel using ISR technology.

What Is ISR Technology?

ISR technology involves the extraction of minerals from ore bodies located in the subsurface. It is a process that occurs underground and minimizes the environmental impact of mining by eliminating the need for open-pit mining. ISR technology involves injecting a solution into the wellfield, which dissolves the uranium in the ore body. The uranium-rich solution is then pumped to the surface, undergoing further processing to yield the final product.

The Extraction Process

The first step in uranium extraction using ISR technology is drilling wells into the ore body. The wells are drilled into the ore body using specialized drilling equipment and are spaced according to the size and shape of the deposit. Once the wells are drilled, they are lined with a pipe, and a packer is used to seal the well to prevent the solution from escaping.

Next, a solution is injected into the wellfield. The solution is typically a mixture of water and backing soda and oxygen. The solution is injected into the wellfield under pressure, which creates a hydraulic gradient that causes the solution to flow through the ore body. As the solution flows through the ore body, it dissolves the uranium, which is then carried to the surface by the solution.

Processing the Uranium

Once the uranium-rich solution is pumped to the surface, it undergoes further processing to yield the final product. The first step in processing the uranium is to remove any impurities from the solution. This is typically done using an ion exchange process, which involves passing the solution through a resin bed that selectively removes impurities.

Next, the uranium is recovered from the solution. This is typically done using a precipitation process, which involves adding chemicals that cause the uranium to precipitate out of the solution. The uranium is then dried and packaged for transport to a conversion facility.

Conversion to Nuclear Fuel

The uranium extracted using ISR technology is in the form of yellowcake, a semi-refined product. Yellowcake is made up of uranium oxide, which is then processed further to produce nuclear fuel. The first step in converting yellowcake to nuclear fuel is to convert the uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride.

Uranium hexafluoride is a compound that is used in the enrichment process. The conversion of uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride is typically done using a chemical process that involves reacting the uranium oxide with hydrofluoric acid.

Once the uranium oxide has been converted to uranium hexafluoride, it is ready for enrichment. The enrichment process involves increasing the concentration of uranium-235, the isotope used to fuel nuclear reactors. The enriched uranium is then converted into fuel pellets and loaded into fuel rods. The fuel rods are then used in nuclear reactors to generate electricity.


Uranium is an essential element in the production of nuclear energy. The use of ISR technology in uranium extraction has revolutionized the mining industry by minimizing its environmental impact. The ISR technology involves drilling wells into the ore body, injecting a solution into the wellfield, and processing the uranium-rich solution to yield the final product. The final product is then converted into nuclear fuel used in nuclear reactors to generate electricity. ISR technology has made uranium extraction more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.

enCore Energy Corp., the most diversified U.S. domestic uranium developer, is focused on becoming a leading ISR uranium producer. Our team is led by industry experts with extensive knowledge and experience in all aspects of ISR uranium operations and the nuclear fuel cycle. If you’re looking for uranium in-situ recovery in Texas, trust only our team! Get in touch to see our uranium projects!