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AAEES celebrates 100 years of the activated sludge process with a special issue of Environmental Engineer and Scientist. Featuring articles by Daniel W. Schneider, Alonzo W. Lawrence, Andrew C. Middleton, Ross E. McKinney, Richard I. Dick, Glen T. Daigger, James L. Barnard, George Tchobanoglous, H. David Stensel, and the original Ardern and Lockett article.

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Posted: September 15, 2014

Nuclear waste eaters: Scientists discover hazardous waste-eating bacteria

Date: September 9, 2014

The bacterium (inset) was found in soil samples in the Peak District.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Manchester

Tiny single-cell organisms discovered living underground could help with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, say researchers involved in a study at The University of Manchester.

Although bacteria with waste-eating properties have been discovered in relatively pristine soils before, this is the first time that microbes that can survive in the very harsh conditions expected in radioactive waste disposal sites have been found. The findings are published in the ISME (Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology) journal.

The disposal of our nuclear waste is very challenging, with very large volumes destined for burial deep underground. The largest volume of radioactive waste, termed 'intermediate level' and comprising of 364,000m3 (enough to fill four Albert Halls), will be encased in concrete prior to disposal into underground vaults. When ground waters eventually reach these waste materials, they will react with the cement and become highly alkaline. This change drives a series of chemical reactions, triggering the breakdown of the various 'cellulose' based materials that are present in these complex wastes. click here to continue.

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