United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Technical Basis for Assessing Uranium Bioremediation Performance (NUREG/CR-6973)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: April 2008
Date Published: August 2008

Prepared by:
P.E. Long, S.B. Yabusaki, P.D. Meyer, C.J. Murray
A.L. N’Guessan

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richland, WA 99352

M. Fuhrmann, NRC Project Manager

Prepared for:
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington DC 20555-0001

RC Job Code N6504

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Abstract

In situ bioremediation of uranium holds significant promise for effective stabilization of U(VI) from groundwater at reduced cost compared to conventional pump and treat. This promise is unlikely to be realized unless researchers and practitioners successfully predict and demonstrate the long-term effectiveness of uranium bioremediation protocols. Field research to date has focused on both proof of principle and a mechanistic level of understanding. Current practice typically involves an engineering approach using proprietary amendments that focuses mainly on monitoring U(VI) concentration for a limited time period. Given the complexity of uranium biogeochemistry and uranium secondary minerals, and the lack of documented case studies, a systematic monitoring approach using multiple performance indicators is needed. This document provides an overview of uranium bioremediation, summarizes design considerations, and identifies and prioritizes field performance indicators for the application of uranium bioremediation. The performance indicators provided as part of this document are based on current biogeochemical understanding of uranium and will enable practitioners to monitor the performance of their system and make a strong case to clients, regulators, and the public that the future performance of the system can be assured and changes in performance addressed as needed. The performance indicators established by this document and the information gained by using these indicators do add to the cost of uranium bioremediation. However, they are vital to the long-term success of the application of uranium bioremediation and provide a significant assurance that regulatory goals will be met. The document also emphasizes the need for systematic development of key information from bench scale tests and pilot scales tests prior to full-scale implementation.

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