Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Agricultural Waste Can Clean up Nuclear Waste, Researchers Find

Waste uranium can apparently be recovered very cheaply from the polluted runoff from uranium mining using E. Coli and a phosphate storage molecule found in seeds, British researchers have found. They used the common bacteria with a chemical parallel of what is already found in agricultural waste: inositol phosphate.

Inositol phosphate is insoluble, so it forms a precipitate on the bacteria. The E. Coli then broke down the precipitate; releasing the phosphate molecules which then attached to uranium molecules to form uranium phosphate, which can then be harvested to recover the uranium.

What they have developed is a way for one contaminant to clean up another.

Lynne Macaskie from the University of Birmingham in the UK led the research on radioactive waters and presented the findings at the Society for General Microbiology’s meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Interestingly the UK has no uranium mining industry, but it does produce a significant amount of uranium in waste from nuclear plants. The process could be as effective with waste uranium from nuclear power production, the researchers claim. For energy security as well as health risks, both sources are worth cleaning up.

The process they developed is extremely cheap. A similar technique was invented in the 90’s but it was too expensive and was not nearly as effective. Macaskie’s process is six times more effective and much cheaper. It could cost at most $3 a gram to recover uranium using the technique, or as little as 14 cents a gram if using the cheapest source of inositol phosphate. That is about the going price for uranium itself.

Potential customers would come from the top three uranium producers – Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan. Other countries who might be interested are Germany, the Czech Republic and France; the latter, especially for its many nuclear plants themselves. The United States mines relatively small amounts of uranium, on a par with Niger, Namibia, Uzbekistan and Russia. But both the US and Russia have a lot of nuclear waste.

She told the Society that “By using a cheap feedstock easily obtained from plant wastes we have shown that an economic, scalable process for uranium recovery is possible”.

So agricultural pollution could be used to clean up nuclear waste. We live in strange times.

Image from the US Gov’t Fish and Wildlife Service

Via ENS Newswire

Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech news coverage? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.

Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

America's national parks are front and center in wildlife conservation and renewable energy, too.


Batteries are the secret ingredient in the new series Running Wild: The Challenge, and they also feature front and center in the US Army's...

Clean Power

Floating solar arrays dovetail with Defense Department's nature conservation strategies as climate change, land encroachment threaten military facilities.

Clean Transport

In its quest to decarbonize and electrify, the US Air Force is upgrading its MHU-83 Jammer munitions lift truck.

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.