Bacteria May Threaten Storage Of Japan Nuclear Waste

Physorg
By Jan Overney
July 9, 2012

By interacting with the radioactive waste and the materials used to contain it, underground microorganisms may affect the safety of nuclear waste repositories, for better or for worse.

Underground, time appears to stand still. […] But now, scientists are finding out that human activities such as the excavation of tunnels can lead to a blooming of underground bacterial activity.

[…]

“Given the long duration involved – several hundred thousand years, if the bacteria can do it, they will do it,” [Rizlan Bernier-Latmani, head of EPFL’s Environmental Microbiology Laboratory] says.

[…]

Bernier-Latmani cites several bacterially-driven processes that have the potential to affect the safety of nuclear waste repositories […] increased corrosion of metallic waste and containers and production of methane could both weaken the barriers that contain the radioactive waste

[…]

It is still unknown whether the bugs are native or whether they colonized the bedrock during the excavation of the tunnels, but they are there, and they are active. Deep geological repositories have been selected as the most viable option for nuclear waste disposal, because, unlike on the surface of the earth, the bedrock appears to be frozen in time. But while geologymay be close to standing still, human intrusion into the bedrock can bring underground biology back to its normal pace.

Bacteria May Threaten Storage Of Japan Nuclear Waste

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