Biological removal of cationic fission products from nuclear wastewater.


Nuclear energy is becoming a preferred energy source amidst rising concerns over the impacts of fossil fuel based energy on global warming and climate change. However, the radioactive waste generated during nuclear power generation contains harmful long-lived fission products such as strontium (Sr). In this study, cationic strontium uptake from solution by microbial cultures obtained from mine wastewater is evaluated. A high strontium removal capacity (q(max)) with maximum loading of 444 mg/g biomass was achieved by a mixed sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) culture. Sr removal in SRB was facilitated by cell surface based electrostatic interactions with the formation of weak ionic bonds, as 68% of the adsorbed Sr(2+) was easily desorbed from the biomass in an ion exchange reaction with MgCl₂. To a lesser extent, precipitation reactions were also found to account for the removal of Sr from aqueous solution as about 3% of the sorbed Sr was precipitated due to the presence of chemical ligands while the remainder occurred as an immobile fraction. Further analysis of the Sr-loaded SRB biomass by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled to energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) confirmed extracellular Sr(2+) precipitation as a result of chemical interaction. In summary, the obtained results demonstrate the prospects of using biological technologies for the remediation of industrial wastewaters contaminated by fission products.

DOI: 10.2166/wst.2011.021

Cite this paper

@article{Ngwenya2011BiologicalRO, title={Biological removal of cationic fission products from nuclear wastewater.}, author={Nonhlanhla Ngwenya and Evans M Nkhalambayausi Chirwa}, journal={Water science and technology : a journal of the International Association on Water Pollution Research}, year={2011}, volume={63 1}, pages={124-8} }