Algae Could Be Key to Nuclear Waste Clean Up
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.
- Addressing the nuclear waste issue (eurekalert.org)
- Addressing the nuclear waste issue with common algae (sciencedaily.com)
- Algae holds promise for nuclear clean-up (nature.com)
- Algae Could Be Key to Cleaning Up Nuclear Accident Sites (frontsidebus.net)
- 3 Creative Tools for Nuclear Cleanup: Algae, Rust, and Bacteria | 80beats (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Algae to Clean Up Nuke Sites? (foxnews.com)
- Pond alga could help scientists design effective method for cleaning up nuclear waste (physorg.com)
- Algae Holds Promise for Nuclear Clean-Up (scientificamerican.com)
- TEPCO Implementing Massive Discharge of Nuclear Waste into Open Ocean (yubanet.com)