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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Jan 15;38(2):468-75.

In situ bioreduction of technetium and uranium in a nitrate-contaminated aquifer.

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Department of Civil Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.


The potential to stimulate an indigenous microbial community to reduce a mixture of U(VI) and Tc(VII) in the presence of high (120 mM) initial NO3- co-contamination was evaluated in a shallow unconfined aquifer using a series of single-well, push-pull tests. In the absence of added electron donor, NO3-, Tc(VII), and U(VI) reduction was not detectable. However, in the presence of added ethanol, glucose, or acetate to serve as electron donor, rapid NO3- utilization was observed. The accumulation of NO2-, the absence of detectable NH4+ accumulation, and the production of N2O during in situ acetylene-block experiments suggest that NO3- was being consumed via denitrification. Tc(VII) reduction occurred concurrently with NO3- reduction, but U(VI) reduction was not observed until two or more donor additions resulted in iron-reducing conditions, as detected by the production of Fe(II). Reoxidation/remobilization of U(IV) was also observed in tests conducted with high (approximately 120 mM) but not low (approximately 1 mM) initial NO3- concentrations and not during acetylene-block experiments conducted with high initial NO3-. These results suggest that NO3(-)-dependent microbial U(IV) oxidation may inhibit or reverse U(VI) reduction and decrease the stability of U(IV) in this environment. Changes in viable biomass, community composition, metabolic status, and respiratory state of organisms harvested from down-well microbial samplers deployed during these tests were consistent with the conclusions that electron donor additions resulted in microbial growth, the creation of anaerobic conditions, and an increase in activity of metal-reducing organisms (e.g., Geobacter). The results demonstrate that it is possible to stimulate the simultaneous bioreduction of U(VI) and Tc(VII) mixtures commonly found with NO3- co-contamination at radioactive waste sites.

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