The wide use of concrete in the nuclear industry has resulted in severe contamination of concrete surfaces with radionuclides. Current decontamination techniques, while efficient, are associated with significant hazards and limitations. Opportunities exist for novel methods which combine efficiency with a more environmentally and user-friendly solution.
Researchers at the University of Dundee have developed a novel, highly effective and environmentally-friendly decontamination method using naturally-occurring fungi with the inherent ability to carry out “biogeochemical” attack on concrete and other surfaces.
A biomatrix containing fungi that secrete chemicals which attack the surface layers of concrete and other surfaces has been developed. The biomatrix/microbial combinations have been found to be extremely effective at removing metal radionuclides, including multiple metal mixtures. The fungi encapsulated within the absorbent solid matrix efficiently draw out radionuclides (e.g. cobalt, strontium and caesium) into the biomass-containing matrix where it is immobilized, upon contact with contaminated surfaces. The biotechnology has several advantages over current methods and has the potential for multiple applications.