Biodegradation of the alkaline cellulose degradation products generated during radioactive waste disposal

Simon P Rout, Jessica Radford, Andrew P Laws, Francis Sweeney, Ahmed Elmekawy, Lisa J Gillie, Paul N Humphreys

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14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The anoxic, alkaline hydrolysis of cellulosic materials generates a range of cellulose degradation products (CDP) including α and β forms of isosaccharinic acid (ISA) and is expected to occur in radioactive waste disposal sites receiving intermediate level radioactive wastes. The generation of ISA's is of particular relevance to the disposal of these wastes since they are able to form complexes with radioelements such as Pu enhancing their migration. This study demonstrates that microbial communities present in near-surface anoxic sediments are able to degrade CDP including both forms of ISA via iron reduction, sulphate reduction and methanogenesis, without any prior exposure to these substrates. No significant difference (n = 6, p = 0.118) in α and β ISA degradation rates were seen under either iron reducing, sulphate reducing or methanogenic conditions, giving an overall mean degradation rate of 4.7 × 10(-2) hr(-1) (SE ± 2.9 × 10(-3)). These results suggest that a radioactive waste disposal site is likely to be colonised by organisms able to degrade CDP and associated ISA's during the construction and operational phase of the facility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e107433
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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