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Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
Vol. 78, No: xx,2005, Pages: 151–177

The removal of uranium from mining waste water using algal/microbial biomass

Margarete Kalina, W.N. Wheelerb, G. Meinrathc,*

RER Consultants, Schießstattweg 3a, D-94032 Passau, Germany.


We describe a three step process for the removal of uranium (U) from dilute waste waters. Step one involves the sequestration of U on, in, and around aquatic plants such as algae. Cell wall ligands efficiently remove U(VI) from waste water. Growing algae continuously renew the cellular surface area. Step 2 is the removal of U-algal particulates from the water column to the sediments. Step 3 involves reducing U(VI) to U(IV) and transforming the ions into stable precipitates in the sediments. The algal cells provide organic carbon and other nutrients to heterotrophic microbial consortia to maintain the low EH, within which the U is transformed. Among the microorganisms, algae are of predominant interest for the ecological engineer because of their ability to sequester U and because some algae can live under many extreme environments, often in abundance. Algae grow in a wide spectrum of water qualities, from alkaline environments (Chara, Nitella) to acidic mine drainage waste waters (Mougeotia, Ulothrix). If they could be induced to grow in waste waters, they would provide a simple, longterm means to remove U and other radionuclides from U mining effluents. This paper reviews the literature on algal and microbial adsorption, reduction, and transformation of U in waste streams, wetlands, lakes and oceans.

Keywords:Uranium; Remediation; Bioremediation; Ecological engineering; Environmental chemistry;radionuclide;microbes;fungi.

Corresponding author: Tel:xxxxxxx; fax: +49-851-70-372.

E-mail: meinrath@geo.tu-freiberg.de


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