Solid-aqueous phase partitioning of radionuclides by complexing compounds excreted by subsurface bacteria
Journal article, 2006
Radionuclides are present in numerous aerobic and anaerobic subsurface environments due to nuclear weapons testing, leakage from process and storage facilities, and discharge of radioactive waste. The partitioning of radionuclides between liquid and solid phases by complexing compounds excreted by subsurface bacteria was studied. The solid-aqueous phase partitioning of pico- to submicromolar amounts of 59 Fe, 147 Pm, 234 Th, and 241 Am was analyzed in the presence of quartz sand and exudates from three species of subsurface bacteria: Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas stutzeri, and Shewanella putrefaciens. All were grown under aerobic conditions, and P. stutzeri and S. putrefaciens were grown under anaerobic conditions as well. The supernatants of the aerobic and anaerobic cultures were collected and radionuclide was added. Quartz sand, with a Brunauer, Emmett, and Teller (BET) surface area of 0.1 m 2 g -1 , was added to the supernatant radionuclide mix, and the pH was adjusted to approximately 8. After centrifuging, the amount of radionuclide in the liquid phase of the samples and controls was analyzed using scintillation. Relative to the control, aerobic supernatants maintained more than 50% of the added 59 Fe, 234 Th, and 241 Am. The highest amount of metal present in the liquid phase of the anaerobic supernatants was found in the case of 241 Am, with 40% more 241 Am in samples than in controls. Both aerobic and anaerobic supernatants tested positive for complexing compounds when analyzed using the Chrome Azurol S assay. The great amounts of radionuclides in the liquid phases of samples were likely due to complexation with such compounds. Bacterially excreted complexing compounds hence seem able to influence the solid-aqueous phase partitioning of radionuclides. This could influence the mobility of radionuclides in contaminated subsurface environments.