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Chemical Geology
Vol. 363,
2014; Page: 164 - 184

The biogeochemistry and bioremediation of uranium and other priority radionuclides

Laura Newsome, Katherine Morris, Jonathan R. Lloyd

Research Centre for Radwaste and Decommissioning and Williamson Research Centre for Molecular Environmental Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.

Abstract

Microbial metabolism has the potential to alter the solubility of a broad range of priority radionuclides, including uranium, other actinides and fission products. Of notable interest has been the biostimulation of anaerobic microbial communities to remove redox-sensitive radionuclides such as uranium U(VI) from contaminated groundwaters at nuclear sites. Particularly promising are bioreduction processes, whereby bacteria enzymatically reduce aqueous U(VI) to insoluble U(IV) coupled to oxidation of an organic electron donor; and uranium phosphate biomineralisation, in which bacterial phosphatase activity cleaves organophosphates, liberating inorganic phosphate that precipitates with aqueous U(VI) as uranyl phosphate minerals. Here we review the mechanisms of uranium bioreduction and phosphate biomineralisation and their suitability to facilitate long-term precipitation of uranium from groundwater, with particular focus on in situ trials at the US Department of Energy field sites. Redox interactions of other priority radionuclides (technetium, neptunium, plutonium, americium, iodine, strontium and caesium) are also reviewed.

Keywords: Biostimulation; Microorganisms; Metal reduction; Electron transport; In situ; Nuclear


 

 

 
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