Nuclear-Waste Eating Bacteria- A Future Possible Answer for the Radioactivity Issues of Nuclear Energy


 

Nuclear-Waste Eating Bacteria- A Future Possible Answer for the Radioactivity Issues of Nuclear Energy
 


3 October 2007 at 12:32:07 PM
salon

 The creation of quantities of long-lived radioactive waste is the most formidable problem facing the nuclear power industry today.

Now a team at the University of Pretoria (UP) is working on a solution that harnesses Mother Nature herself to minimise radioactive waste created in the pebble bed nuclear reactor system.

Rather than using existing physical-chemical processes to break down the waste - which can generate more waste - professor of chemical engineering at UP, Evans Chirwa, is working on a solution that relies on natural processes using bacteria or other microbial processes to break down the radionuclides. "Micro-organisms have evolved mechanisms for survival in hostile environments over billions of years," says Chirwa. "They can withstand 5 000 times more radiation than humans."

These tiny organisms are already being used to reduce toxic metals in the environment. For instance, they have been used to detoxify chromium, uranium and mercury. Scientists have also recently identified micro-organisms capable of using ionising radiation as an energy source.

Chirwa's team is specifically focused on SA's pebble bed modular reactor because though the system design is believed to be inherently safe, its design produces considerably more waste than conventional reactors.


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