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Comparative analysis of uranium bioassociation with halophilic bacteria and archaea

Bader, M.; Müller, K.; Foerstendorf, H.; Schmidt, M.; Simmons, K.; Swanson, J. S.; Reed, D. T.; Stumpf, T.; Cherkouk, A.


Rock salt represents a potential host rock formation for the final disposal of radioactive waste. The interactions between indigenous microorganisms and radionuclides, e.g. uranium, need to be investigated to better predict the influence of microorganisms on the safety assessment of the repository. Hence, the association process of uranium with two microorganisms isolated from rock salt was comparatively studied. Brachybacterium sp. G1, which was isolated from the German salt dome Gorleben, and Halobacterium noricense DSM15987T were selected as examples of a moderately halophilic bacterium and an extremely halophilic archaeon, respectively. The microorganisms exhibited completely different association behaviors with uranium. While a pure biosorption process took place with Brachybacterium sp. G1 cells, a multistage association process occurred with the archaeon. In addition to batch experiments, in situ attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy was applied to characterize the U(VI) interaction process. Biosorption was identified as the dominating process for Brachybacterium sp. G1 with this method. Carboxylic functionalities are the dominant interacting groups for the bacterium, whereas phosphoryl groups are also involved in U(VI) association by the archaeon H. noricense.

Keywords: nuclear waste repository; microorganisms from rock salt; Brachybacterium; Halobacterium; in situ ATR FT-IR spectroscopy


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