Accelerated biodegradation of cement by sulfur-oxidizing bacteria as a bioassay for evaluating immobilization of low-level radioactive waste

Orli Aviam, Gabi Bar-Nes, Yehuda Zeiri, Alex Sivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations

Abstract

Disposal of low-level radioactive waste by immobilization in cement is being evaluated worldwide. The stability of cement in the environment may be impaired by sulfur-oxidizing bacteria that corrode the cement by producing sulfuric acid. Since this process is so slow that it is not possible to perform studies of the degradation kinetics and to test cement mixtures with increased durability, procedures that accelerate the biodegradation are required. Semicontinuous cultures of Halothiobacillus neapolitanus and Thiomonas intermedia containing thiosulfate as the sole energy source were employed to accelerate the biodegradation of cement samples. This resulted in a weight loss of up to 16% after 39 days, compared with a weight loss of 0.8% in noninoculated controls. Scanning electron microscopy of the degraded cement samples revealed deep cracks, which could be associated with the formation of low-density corrosion products in the interior of the cement. Accelerated biodegradation was also evident from the leaching rates of Ca2+ and Si2+, the major constituents of the cement matrix, and Ca exhibited the highest rate (up to 20 times greater than the control rate) due to the reaction between free lime and the biogenic sulfuric acid. Leaching of Sr2+ and Cs +, which were added to the cement to simulate immobilization of the corresponding radioisotopes, was also monitored. In contrast to the linear leaching kinetics of calcium, silicon, and strontium, the leaching pattern of cesium produced a saturation curve similar to the control curve. Presumably, the leaching of cesium is governed by the diffusion process, whereas the leaching kinetics of the other three ions seems to governed by dissolution of the cement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6031-6036
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume70
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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