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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Jul 1;39(13):4841-7.

Bioreduction of uranium in a contaminated soil column.

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Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA.


The bioreduction of soluble uranium [U(VI)] to sparingly soluble U(IV) species is an attractive remedial technology for contaminated soil and groundwater due to the potential for immobilizing uranium and impeding its migration in subsurface environments. This manuscript describes a column study designed to simulate a three-step strategy proposed for the remediation of a heavily contaminated site at the U.S. Department of Energy's NABIR Field Research Center in Oak Ridge, TN. The soil is contaminated with high concentrations of uranium, aluminum, and nitrate and has a low, highly buffered pH (approximately 3.5). Steps proposed for remediation are (i) flushing to remove nitrate and aluminum, (ii) neutralization to establish pH conditions favorable for biostimulation, and (iii) biostimulation for U(VI) reduction. We simulated this sequence using a packed soil column containing undisturbed aggregates of U(VI)-contaminated saprolite that was flushed with an acidified salt solution (pH 4.0), neutralized with bicarbonate (60 mM), and then biostimulated by adding ethanol. The column was operated anaerobically in a closed-loop recirculation setup. However, during the initial month of biostimulation, ethanol was not utilized, and U(VI) was not reduced. A bacterial culture enriched from the site groundwaterwas subsequently added, and the consumption of ethanol coupled with sulfate reduction immediately ensued. The aqueous concentration of U(VI) initially increased, evidently because of the biological production of carbonate, a ligand known to solubilize uranyl. After approximately 50 days, aqueous U(VI) concentrations rapidly decreased from approximately 17 to <1 mg/L. At the conclusion of the experiment,the presence of reduced solid phase U(IV) was confirmed using X-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopy. The results indicate that bioreduction to immobilize uranium is potentially feasible at this site; however, the stability of the reduced U(IV) and its potential reoxidation will require further investigation, as do the effects of groundwater chemistry and competitive microbial processes, such as methanogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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