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Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Vol.
24, No. 3, 2013; Pages: 489 - 497

Bioremediation of uranium-contaminated groundwater: a systems approach to subsurface biogeochemistry

Kenneth H Williams, John R Bargar, Jonathan R Lloyd, Derek R Lovley

Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

Abstract

Adding organic electron donors to stimulate microbial reduction of highly soluble U(VI) to less soluble U(IV) is a promising strategy for immobilizing uranium in contaminated subsurface environments. Studies suggest that diagnosing the in situ physiological status of the subsurface community during uranium bioremediation with environmental transcriptomic and proteomic techniques can identify factors potentially limiting U(VI) reduction activity. Models which couple genome-scale in silico representations of the metabolism of key microbial populations with geochemical and hydrological models may be able to predict the outcome of bioremediation strategies and aid in the development of new approaches. Concerns remain about the long-term stability of sequestered U(IV) minerals and the release of co-contaminants associated with Fe(III) oxides, which might be overcome through targeted delivery of electrons to select microorganisms using in situ electrodes.

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