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Microbial biogeochemistry of uranium mill tailings

January 1, 2005

Uranium mill tailings (UMT) are the crushed ore residues from the extraction of uranium (U) from ores. Among the radioactive wastes associated with the nuclear fuel cycle, UMT are unique in terms of their volume and their limited isolation from the surficial environment. For this latter reason, their management and long-term fate has many interfaces with environmental microbial communities and processes. The interactions of microorganisms with UMT have been shown to be diverse and with significant consequences for radionuclide mobility and bioremediation. These radionuclides are associated with the U-decay series. The addition of organic carbon and phosphate is required to initiate the reduction of the U present in the groundwater down gradient of the mills. Investigations on sediment and water from the U-contaminated aquifer, indicates that the addition of a carbon source stimulates the rate of U removal by microbial reduction. Moreover, most attention with respect to passive or engineered removal of U from groundwaters focuses on iron-reducing and sulfate-reducing bacteria.

Publication Year 2005
Title Microbial biogeochemistry of uranium mill tailings
DOI 10.1016/S0065-2164(05)57004-7
Authors Edward R. Landa
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Advances in Applied Microbiology
Index ID 70184398
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program