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Algae Could Be Key to Nuclear Waste Clean Up

06/04/2011

       

pond-algae
Researchers at Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory believe that freshwater algae could become a key component in nuclear waste clean-up.

Studies done on Closterium moniliferum, a bright green pond algae, found that it could be effective at sequestering Strontium 90, one of the most dangerous radioactive materials created in a nuclear reactor and consequently present nuclear waste sludge. The material has a half-life of 30 years and is drawn to bone, carrying with it a very high bone cancer risk for those exposed to it.

Lab studies showed that algae removes strontium from water and stores it in the form of barium-strontium-sulfate crystals while excreting out any calcium, meaning it could naturally separate the highly radioactive material from the harmless substances in sludge, allowing clean-up workers to more easily locate and deal with the radioactive material.

The experiments used non-radioactive strontium (chemically identical to isotope Sr-90), so the researchers aren’t sure how the algae would survive in a radioactive environment, but algae has proven that it can withstand other harsh environments, so the scientists are very hopeful.

via Physorg 

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