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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Apr 15;39(8):2529-36.

Role for Fe(III) minerals in nitrate-dependent microbial U(IV) oxidation.

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Department of Botany and Microbiology and Institute for Energy and the Environment, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019, USA.


Microbiological reduction of soluble U(VI) to insoluble U(IV) is a means of preventing the migration of that element in groundwater, but the presence of nitrate in U(IV)-containing sediments leads to U(IV) oxidation and remobilizaton. Nitrite or iron(III) oxyhydroxides may oxidize U(IV) under nitrate-reducing conditions, and we determined the rate and extent of U(IV) oxidation by these compounds. Fe(III) oxidized U(IV) at a greater rate than nitrite (130 and 10 microM U(IV)/day, respectively). In aquifer sediments, Fe(III) may be produced during microbial nitrate reduction by oxidation of Fe(II) with nitrite, or by enzymatic Fe(II) oxidation coupled to nitrate reduction. To determine which of these mechanisms was dominant, we isolated a nitrate-dependent acetate- and Fe(ll)-oxidizing bacterium from a U(VI)- and nitrate-contaminated aquifer. This organism oxidized U(IV) at a greater rate and to a greater extent under acetate-oxidizing (where nitrite accumulated to 50 mM)than under Fe(II)-oxidizing conditions. We showthatthe observed differences in rate and extent of U(IV) oxidation are due to mineralogical differences between Fe(III) produced by reaction of Fe(II) with nitrite (amorphous) and Fe(III) produced enzymatically (goethite or lepidocrocite). Our results suggest the mineralogy and surface area of Fe(III) minerals produced under nitrate-reducing conditions affect the rate and extent of U(IV) oxidation. These results may be useful for predicting the stability of U(IV) in aquifers.

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