Abstract

Understanding the biogeochemical behaviour of actinides in the environment is essential for the long-term stewardship of radionuclide contaminated land. Plutonium is of particular concern due its high radiotoxicity, long half-life and complex chemistry, with these factors contributing to the limited literature available on its environmental behaviour. Here, we investigate the biogeochemistry of Pu in contaminated soil as microbial processes have the potential to mobilize Pu through numerous mechanisms including the reduction of Pu(IV) to the potentially more mobile Pu(III). After the addition of glucose to stimulate microbial activities, there was a substantial shift in the 16S rRNA gene profile of the extant microbial communities between days 0 and 44 with an increase in Clostridium species, known glucose fermenters which have been reported to facilitate the reduction of Pu(IV) to Pu(III). A minor increase in Pu mobility was observed at day 44, returning to initial levels by day 118. The negligible change in Pu mobility, despite the onset of reducing conditions and changing mineralogy, would suggest the Pu is highly refractory. This information is important for developing remediation options for Pu-contaminated soils, suggesting that managing legacy Pu in situ may be preferred to mobilization via the stimulation of metal-reducing bacteria.

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