International Microbiology, Vol 8, No 3 (2005)

Biofilm formation in spent nuclear fuel pools and bioremediation of radioactive water

M. Isabel Sarró, Ana M. García, Diego A. Moreno


Microbiological studies of spent nuclear fuel pools at the Cofrentes Nuclear Power Plant (Valencia, Spain) were initiated to determine the microbial populations in the pools’ water. Biofilm formation at the nuclear power plant facilities and the potential use of those microbial populations in the bioremediation of radioactive water were also studied. Biofilm formation was analyzed by immersing different austenitic stainless steel coupons (UNS S30400, UNS S30466, UNS S31600), as well as balls of stainless steel (UNS S44200) and titanium (99.9%) in a spent nuclear fuel pool (under static and dynamic conditions) for 34 months. Epifluorescence microscopy and scanning electron microscopy revealed that biofilm formed on the samples, in spite of the radioactive and oligotrophic conditions of the water. Based on standard culture methods and sequencing of 16S rDNA fragments, 57 bacteria belonging to α-, β-, and γ-Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Actinobacteridae were identified in the biofilms. The radioactivity of the biofilm was measured using γ-ray spectrometry, which revealed that biofilms were able to retain radionuclides, especially 60Co. Using metallic materials to decontaminate radioactive water could become a new approach for bioremediation. [Int Microbiol 2005 8(3):223-230]

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