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Development of a Carbon-14 Bioseperation Technique for Cleanup of Nuclear Graphite

[+] Author Affiliations
Pulane E. Molokwane, Evans M. N. Chirwa

University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Paper No. ICEM2007-7164, pp. 113-117; 5 pages
  • The 11th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • 11th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Parts A and B
  • Bruges, Belgium, September 2–6, 2007
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4339-0 | eISBN: 0-7918-3818-8
  • Copyright © 2007 by ASME


A preliminary study on the bioseperation of Carbon-14 was carried out using a mixed-culture of microorganisms obtained from the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Company (PBMR). The culture demonstrated the ability to bioaccumulate radiocarbon-14 (C-14) from solution. The experiment consisting of a growth vessel and a biofilter connected in a closed loop. The biofilter was not installed for the purpose of treatment but rather as a method of isolation of microorganisms for further processing. Significant amounts of C-14 were detected in the trapped cells in the biofilter, significantly higher than in controls taken before adding carbon sources containing C-14. The microorganisms were grown under micro-aerobic conditions with graphite carbon and commercially purchased powdered carbon as the predominant supplied carbon sources. Small amounts of sucrose (500 mg/L) were added at 48 hour intervals to promote the growth of heterotrophic microorganisms. Additional work is required to determine the amount of C-14 escaping through gases produced as a product of metabolism (CO2 and CO) and the total carbon metabolized by the microorganisms in order to report with accuracy the degree of separation of C-14 from the C-14/C-12 mixture. A proof of concept study is underway to determine the C-14 mass balance, characterize the microorganisms in the reactor, and establish the presence or absence of processes that might have affected the preliminary observations.

Copyright © 2007 by ASME
Topics: Carbon , Graphite



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