Microbes influence the movement of uranium contaminants in the environment

January 20, 2012

Understanding the processes controlling the chemical speciation, and thus mobility, of radionuclide contaminants such as uranium (U) is key for predicting their fate and transport in aquatic and terrestrial environments, and is a critical consideration in the design of nuclear waste storage facilities and the development of remediation strategies for management of nuclear legacy sites. Integrating synchrotron-based biogeochemistry with microbiology, molecular biology, and protein chemistry in a laboratory-based experimental system, researchers at Argonne showed that UVI was reduced to the less mobile nanoparticulate uranite (UO2) and complexed mononuclear UIV via multiple pathways including direct microbial reduction and coupled biotic-abiotic processes.

This research and a larger review of the dominant redox (oxidation-reduction reactions) that influence chemical speciation of technetium, uranium, neptunium, and plutonium was recently published by the American Chemical Society.

Read the paper, "Redox Processes Affecting the Speciation of Technetium, Uranium, Neptunium, and Plutonium in Aquatic and Terrestrial Environments".