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Bacteria could recover uranium from nuclear waste

Posted on Saturday, September 26 2009 @ 14:18:21 CEST by


Scientists have developed an economically viable process to recover waste uranium from the polluted waters from uranium mines or to clean up nuclear waste, using bacteria and a chemical analogue of a cheap waste material from plants. More details at Science Daily.
Bacteria, in this case, E. coli, break down a source of inositol phosphate (also called phytic acid), a phosphate storage material in seeds, to free the phosphate molecules. The phosphate then binds to the uranium forming a uranium phosphate precipitate on the bacterial cells that can be harvested to recover the uranium.

This process was first described in 1995, but then a more expensive additive was used and that, combined with the then low price of uranium, made the process uneconomic. The discovery that inositol phosphate was potentially six times more effective as well as being a cheap waste material means that the process becomes economically viable, especially as the world price of uranium is likely to increase as countries move to expand their nuclear technologies in a bid to produce low-carbon energy.



 



 

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