Biostimulation by glycerol phosphate to precipitate recalcitrant uranium(IV) phosphate

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Stimulating the microbial reduction of aqueous uranium(VI) to insoluble U(IV) via electron donor addition has been proposed as a strategy to remediate uranium-contaminated groundwater in situ. However, concerns have been raised regarding the longevity of microbially-precipitated U(IV) in the subsurface, particularly as it may become remobilised if the conditions change to become oxidising. An alternative mechanism is to stimulate the precipitation of poorly soluble uranium phosphates via the addition of an organophosphate and promote the development of reducing conditions. Here we selected a sediment sample from a UK nuclear site and stimulated the microbial community with glycerol phosphate under anaerobic conditions to assess whether uranium phosphate precipitation was a viable bioremediation strategy. Results showed that U(VI) was rapidly removed from solution and precipitated as a reduced crystalline U(IV)-phosphate mineral similar to ningyoite. This mineral was considerably more recalcitrant to oxidative remobilisation than the products of microbial U(VI) reduction. Bacteria closely related to Pelosinus species may have played a key role in uranium removal in these experiments. This work has implications for the stewardship of uranium-contaminated groundwater, with the formation of U(IV)-phosphates potentially offering a more effective strategy for maintaining low concentrations of uranium in groundwater over long time periods.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11070-10078
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2015