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Bioremediation of strontium and technetium contaminated groundwater using glycerol phosphate

DOI: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2019.02.004 DOI Help

Authors: A. Cleary (The University of Manchester) , L. Newsome (The University of Manchester) , S. Shaw (The University of Manchester) , Jon Lloyd (The University of Manchester) , C. Boothman (The University of Manchester) , G. Boshoff (National Nuclear Laboratory) , N. Atherton (Sellafield Ltd.) , K. Morris (The University of Manchester)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Chemical Geology

State: Published (Approved)
Published: February 2019
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 17243 , 13559

Abstract: Groundwater at legacy nuclear facilities around the world is contaminated with radionuclides including strontium-90 and technetium-99, which are often present as co-contaminants. Here we investigated whether biostimulation of indigenous microbial communities by glycerol phosphate can co-treat 90Sr through incorporation into phosphate biominerals, and 99Tc through microbially-induced reduction of the sediment to form less mobile Tc(IV) phases via reaction with reduced species (e.g. Fe(II)). Results showed that 95% of Sr was removed from solution in sediment microcosms treated with glycerol phosphate, and sequential extraction showed that ~18% of the Sr in the resulting solid phase was associated with the pH 5 Na-acetate fraction and 75% was in the ion exchangeable fraction. This removal and partitioning to recalcitrant phases during glycerol phosphate treatment was greater than in the untreated controls, where only 60% of Sr was removed from solution, and of thatsolid-associated Sr, 95% was present in the exchangeable fraction. Fitting of Sr K-edge EXAFS spectra confirmed these findings, with shell by shell fitting suggesting ~30% of sediment-associated Sr was present in a coordination environment consistent with phosphate biominerals following glycerol phosphate treatment, whilst Sr was present only as outer-sphere complexes in the controls. In addition,16S rRNA sequencing of sediments stimulated with glycerol phosphate demonstrated the growth of potential phosphate-solubilising species such as Chryseobacterium and Serratia spp. Finally, glycerol phosphate treatment stimulated bioreduction via addition of electron donor in the form of glycerol to the system, in turn this stimulated the removal of 99Tc from solution concomitant with microbial Fe(III) reduction to form poorly soluble hydrous Tc(IV)O2 like phases. In sediments amended with an electron donor, the microbial community also reflected the onset of bioreduction with an increased relative abundance of Fe(III)- and sulfate-reducing bacteria such as Geothrix, Geobacter and Desulfobulbus spp. Overall these results suggest application of glycerol phosphate offers a promising bioremediation strategy to co-treat both 90Sr and 99Tc contaminated groundwaters, and promotes the formation of Sr-phosphate and Tc(IV) bearing biominerals when reducing conditions are maintained. Combined with past work which shows the scavenging of uranium from solution following addition of glycerol phosphate, this extends the scope for glycerol phosphate as a treatment for radioactive contamination in groundwaters.

Journal Keywords: Radioactively contaminated land; Strontium; Technetium; Glycerol phosphate; Biomineralisation; Bioreduction

Subject Areas: Chemistry, Earth Science


Instruments: B18-Core EXAFS