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The distribution of uranium and phosphorus was studied in four drill cores from the Wilkins Peak Member of the Green River Formation in Wyoming. Of the studied occurrences of anomalously high uranium concentrations, 13% were associated with localized organic matter, and the remainder were associated with stratiform phosphate-rich beds. The uranium probably substitutes for calcium in apatite in these beds.
It is proposed that the apatite forms by replacement of calcite during times of flooding of the normally highly saline lake. The flood waters bring in phosphorus and cause a decrease in both pH and ratio of bicarbonate to phosphate, which favors the replacement. Uranium is incorporated in the apatite as the apatite forms or soon after. No special source, other than weathering of volcanic ash, is required for the phosphorus or the uranium.
The uraniferous phosphatic beds do not appear to have any economic potential at the present time. Misleadingly high concentrations of both uranium and phosphorus are observed in outcrop samples as a result of selective leaching of other components.
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