Biomineralization of uranium-phosphates fueled by microbial degradation of isosaccharinic acid (ISA)

Gina Kuippers, Katherine Morris, Luke T. Townsend, Pieter Bots, Kristina Kvashnina, Nicholas D. Bryan, Jonathan R. Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Geological disposal is the globally preferred long-term solution for higher activity radioactive wastes (HAW) including Intermediate Level Waste (ILW). In a cementitious disposal system, cellulosic waste items present in ILW may undergo alkaline hydrolysis, producing significant quantities of isosaccharinic acid (ISA), a chelating agent for radionuclides. Although microbial degradation of ISA has been demonstrated, its impact upon the fate of radionuclides in a geological disposal facility (GDF) is a topic of ongoing research. This study investigates the fate of U(VI) in pH-neutral, anoxic, microbial enrichment cultures, approaching conditions similar to the far field of a GDF, containing ISA as the sole carbon source, and elevated phosphate concentrations, incubated both (i) under fermentation and (ii) Fe(III)- reducing conditions. In the ISA-fermentation experiment, U(VI) was precipitated as insoluble U(VI)-phosphates, whereas under Fe(III)-reducing conditions, the majority of the uranium was precipitated as reduced U(IV)-phosphates, presumably formed via enzymatic reduction mediated by metal-reducing bacteria, including Geobacter species. Overall, this suggests the establishment of a microbially-mediated "bio-barrier" extending into the far field geosphere surrounding a GDF is possible and this bio-barrier has the potential to evolve in response to GDF evolution and can have a controlling impact on the fate of radionuclides.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4597-4606
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
Early online date23 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021


  • biomineralization
  • uranioum-phosphates
  • microbial degradation
  • isosaccharinic acid (ISA)
  • radioactive waste disposal


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