The interactions of strontium and technetium with Fe(II) bearing biominerals: Implications for bioremediation of radioactively contaminated land

Clare L. Thorpe, Christopher Boothman, Jonathan R Lloyd, Gareth T W Law, Nicholas D. Bryan, Nick Atherton, Francis R. Livens, Katherine Morris

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    At nuclear contaminated sites, microbially-mediated Fe(III) reduction under alkaline conditions opens up the potential for co-treatment of the groundwater contaminants 99Tc, though reduction to less mobile Tc(IV) phases, and 90Sr, through increased sorption and/or precipitation promoted at higher pH. In the experiments described here, microbial enrichment cultures derived from representative Sellafield sediments were used to probe the effect of microbially-mediated Fe(III) reduction on the mobility of 99Tc and Sr (as stable Sr2+ at elevated concentrations and 90Sr2+ at ultra-trace concentrations) under both neutral and alkaline conditions. The reduction of Fe(III) in enrichment culture experiments at an initial pH of 7 or 9 resulted in the precipitation of an Fe(II) bearing biomineral comprised of siderite and vivianite. Results showed that TcO4- added at 1.6×10-6M was removed (>80%) from solution concurrent with Fe(III) reduction at both pH 7 and pH 9. Furthermore, X-ray absorption spectroscopy of the reduced biominerals confirmed reduction of Tc(VII) to Tc(IV). To understand Sr behaviour in these systems, Sr2+ was added to enrichment cultures at ultra-trace concentrations (2.2×10-10M (as 90Sr2+)) and at higher concentrations (1.15×10-3M (as stable Sr2+)). In ultra-trace experiments at pH 7, microbially active systems showed enhanced removal of 90Sr compared to the sterile control. This was likely due to sorption of 90Sr2+ to the Fe(II)-bearing biominerals that formed in situ. By contrast, at pH 9, the sterile control showed comparable removal of 90Sr to the microbially active experiment even though the Fe-minerals formed were of very different character in the active (vivianite, siderite) versus sterile (an amorphous Fe(III)-phase) systems. Overall, 90Sr bioreduction experiments showed 60-70% removal of the added 90Sr across the different systems: this suggests that treatment strategies involving bioreduction and the promotion of Fe(III)-reducing conditions to scavenge Tc(IV) are not incompatible with treatment of groundwater 90Sr contamination. In systems with elevated Sr2+ concentrations and an initial pH of 7, microbially active systems showed
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-143
    Number of pages9
    JournalApplied Geochemistry
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


    • x-ray-absorption
    • curved-wave theory
    • iron biomineralization
    • microbial reduction
    • geological disposal
    • aquifer sediments
    • ferric iron
    • bioreduction
    • spectroscopy
    • environment


    Dive into the research topics of 'The interactions of strontium and technetium with Fe(II) bearing biominerals: Implications for bioremediation of radioactively contaminated land'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this