Could bacteria be used to ‘eat’ nuclear waste? Organisms that live on radioactive soil found in contaminated Peak District site via Daily Mail

Bacteria that eats radioactive waste has been discovered in the Peak District – and could now be used to help ‘eat away’ at nuclear waste.

Scientists at the University of Manchester say they have found ‘extremophile’ bacteria that can survive the harsh conditions of underground radioactive waste disposal sites.

The findings, published in the ISME (Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology) journal, say the tiny waste-eating single-cell organisms could help with Britain’s growing problem of nuclear waste disposal.

It is the first time that scientists – who discovered the bacteria in contaminated soil in an old lime kiln – have found microbes like it.

Britain currently has enough waste to fill four Albert Halls and how it is disposed of is a growing problem.

Huge amounts of waste will be encased in concrete before being stored in underground vaults for thousands of years.

But when surface water eventually reaches the waste, it will react with the cement and become highly alkaline.

This triggers chemical reactions that create isosaccharinic acid (ISA), which can react with the toxic elements which make up the radioactive component of nuclear waste.

If the acid binds to radionuclides, such as uranium, then the radionuclides becomes soluble. It means it is more likely to flow out of the vaults, potentially seeping into drinking water and into the food chain.

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