Abstract

Understanding the environmental and biogeochemical behaviour of radionuclides is essential for managing our nuclear legacy safely. Remediation efforts and the concept of geological disposal of nuclear waste focus on immobilizing radionuclides within the subsurface. Here we review recent developments in the understanding of solid-phase capture processes of Cs, Sr, Tc, U, Pu and Np. Abiotic interactions between minerals and these radionuclides (including sorption, reductive precipitation and co-precipitation) have been studied in various conditions. Microbially driven processes are much less well characterized, for example the effects of microbial reduction on the structure and reactivity of existing minerals, or their role in the formation of new minerals. Metabolites released by bacteria can play a role in both mineral dissolution and formation, and better understanding their release and role in mineralization has great potential in the development of solid-phase capture processes for radionuclides.

With the aid of a map of the research landscape covered by this review (created using a cluster-analysis tool, a self-organizing map), we highlight the most promising sequestration processes for specific radionuclides. However, radionuclides exhibit highly species-specific behaviour in their interactions with minerals and microorganisms. More research is required to characterize the role mineral surfaces play in bioreductive immobilization of Pu and Np, the reduction products formed, and their relative stability. Further studies should concentrate on more environmentally relevant experiments that include bacteria, minerals and radionuclides.

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