|Properties||bright yellow cryst; ortho-rhomb; very hygr; very volatile >775°C [MER89]|
|Solubility||v s H2O; s acetone; i benzene [MER89]|
|Melting point, °C|
|Boiling point, °C||decomposes [CRC94]|
|Uranyl chloride, UO2Cl2 is an unstable, bright yellow coloured chemical compound of uranium. It forms large sand-like crystals which are highly soluble in water, alcohols and ethers. Uranyl chloride, and its two hydrate (UO2Cl2·H20 and UO2Cl2·3H20) decomposes in the presence of light, a fact discovered by Adolf Gehln in 1804. This photosensitivity periodically attracted scientific curiosity and various unsuccessful attempts to develop photographic applications using the salts. As with most other uranic species this compound also exhibits fluorescence. Uranyl chloride is formed when chlorine gas is passed over uranium dioxide at a red heat.
The company Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) has developed a process to extract uranium from the Western and Eastern coastal dune sands of India. After pre-processing with high intensity magnetic separators and fine grinding, the mineral sands (known as monazite), are digested with caustic soda at about 120C and water. The hydroxide concentrate is further digested with concentrated hydrochloric acid to solubilise all hydroxides to form a feed solution composed of chlorides of uranium and other rare earths including thorium. The solution is subjected to solvent extraction with dual solvent systems to produce uranyl chloride and thorium oxalate The crude uranyl chloride solution is subsequently refined to nuclear grade ammonium diurante by a purification process involving precipitation and solvent extraction in a nitrate media.
Health and environmental
Uranyl chloride is spectacularly toxic by inhalation and if swallowed. There is also a danger of cumulative effects. The target organs are the liver and kidneys. It is toxic to aquatic organisms, and may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. As with all compounds of uranium it is radioactive to a degree dependent on its isotopic ratios.