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SRS nuclear growth "biological," but what does it eat?

Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 4:23 PM
Last updated 9:19 PM
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A mysterious, cobweblike growth with a fondness for Savannah River Site’s spent nuclear fuel has been identified – but not formally named.

A mysterious, cobweblike growth at Savannah River Site first observed in October has been identified but not given a name.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
A mysterious, cobweblike growth at Savannah River Site first observed in October has been identified but not given a name.

“We did a genetic analysis and found a diverse population of mostly bacteria,” said Christopher Berry, the senior technical adviser of the Savannah River National Labortory.

The “white, stringlike” substance was first observed in October among old fuel assemblies submerged in the site’s L Area basin, where nuclear materials from foreign and domestic research reactors are stored and guarded.

Although the growth was deemed harmless, its ability to thrive and spread in such an unusual environment prompted a more detailed analysis.

“We were able to identify a large portion of the bacteria making up the cobwebs, but there were certainly some where the DNA sequencing came back as unknown,” Berry said.

Although rare, bacterial colonies have been observed in a few nuclear environments, including a Canadian reactor and at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, where a growth developed in the site’s spent fuel basin after its 1979 accident.

Scientists at SRS still have one more local mystery to solve.

“Right now we are trying to figure out what these bacteria are using for food,” Berry said. “In other words, what is their carbon source?”

Water in which spent fuel is stored is carefully filtered, treated and deionized to prevent anything that might contribute to corrosion – a perennial concern in nuclear waste storage.

If its food source can be identified and eliminated, the bacteria – and the cobwebs – might be more easily controlled, Berry said.

“We found no evidence it contributes to corrosion,” he said. “But visually, they want to get rid of it.”

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soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 09/06/12 - 04:34 pm
1
1
Have you seen the vegetables they grow
Unpublished

over in that area around the bomb plant. Ginormous. And they do not glow at night. Don't go fishing where that warm water enters the Savannah.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 09/06/12 - 04:35 pm
1
1
Lizard Man would know the answer
Unpublished

Maybe it belongs to him?

burninater
9424
Points
burninater 09/06/12 - 06:13 pm
3
1
“Right now we are trying to

“Right now we are trying to figure out what these bacteria are using for food,” Berry said. “In other words, what is their carbon source?”
-----------
In other other words -- where's the leak?

A closed carbon-free system with carbon in it is not a closed system.

allhans
23560
Points
allhans 09/06/12 - 11:10 pm
3
0
They could make a horror

This has the makings of a good horror movie.

KSL
126975
Points
KSL 09/06/12 - 09:31 pm
4
1
Well, I for one got burned

Well, I for one got burned out on all of those 50's and 60's movies and TV shows. I no longer fear giant insects, prehistoric giant reptile like birds that hatch in modern times, creatures from black lagoons, or radioactive spider webs.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 09/07/12 - 08:20 am
2
0
Atmospheric

There are certain bacteria that can use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for their carbon source. There is plenty of dissolved carbon dioxide in the water in those spent fuel pools because they are exposed to air.

Newsflash
1881
Points
Newsflash 09/06/12 - 10:21 pm
3
0
Hey Christopher ..........

Hey Christopher ..............whats this floating gunk ? It looks like a dinosaur hocked a loogey . Whats it using for food man ? That's so cool looking Dude......speaking of food lets take a break and go to lunch. You got lunch Chris...no man do you ? Nope....lets ride out to Jackson and get a pizza. What about this floating stuff..We cant eat that Dude ! I mean what are we gonna do with it ? Hey dude......save the pizza box to put it in. You think we'll get an award for spotting this floating stuff Chris ? Maybe not an award Dude..but at least 50 billion more dollars to spend on testing. What you want on your pizza Chris......mmmmmmmm xtra cheese Dude. No floating bacteria was harmed during this edition of Chris & Dude and the 50 billion dollar floaty stuff .

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 09/06/12 - 10:21 pm
3
0
Ion Exchange Media

Also, the ion exchange resins that are used to purify the water are organic. They release trace amounts of carbon into the water.

KSL
126975
Points
KSL 09/06/12 - 10:57 pm
1
1
I am told carbon precipitates

I am told carbon precipitates are common in water. When I question an engineer, sometimes I get more answers than I wanted.

KSL
126975
Points
KSL 09/06/12 - 10:59 pm
1
1
Ozone leaves precipitates.

Ozone leaves precipitates.

burninater
9424
Points
burninater 09/06/12 - 11:14 pm
1
0
Thanks for the info LL, I'm

Thanks for the info LL, I'm not familiar with how these storage casks are set up. I was assuming they weren't in contact with atmospheric CO2, as then the source of carbon really wouldn't be a mystery ...

burninater
9424
Points
burninater 09/06/12 - 11:17 pm
1
0
Or is the issue that there

Or is the issue that there may be unexpected corrosion of the ion exchange resins, freeing more carbon than expected?

Riverman1
82451
Points
Riverman1 09/07/12 - 04:43 am
1
1
The Blob

Just look at The Blob and it's all explained.

"Beware of the Blob! It creeps, and leaps, and glides and slides across the floor."

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 09/07/12 - 07:15 am
3
0
A finer point to think about

The food industry uses Radiation to sterilize certain foods.

If this stuff is immune to and in fact grows in deadly radiated environments, does it pose a future food industry health risk?

Bizkit
30903
Points
Bizkit 09/07/12 - 11:31 am
1
0
Reminds me of the supposed

Reminds me of the supposed new life that could use arsenic rather than phosphate in its DNA. Turned out they are still use phosphate even if limited. It would be difficult to remove all the carbon, further contamination of dead organisms, dead skin cells, oils, etc will be a carbon source. I doubt they use sterile technique and even if they do I doubt it would block viruses. Many organisms living on the bottom of oceans live off the detritus=even DNA is used as an energy and carbon source. Bacteria rule on this planet-even evolutionary biologist who think life is doomed add the caveat that likely bacteria would still survive. It would be an interesting bug to study in how does it maintain the stability of its genome with such a powerful mutagen at work-or does it?

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 09/07/12 - 05:29 pm
2
0
Basically, and as Rush

Basically, and as Rush Limbaugh says;"For all of you in Rio Linda", what they are talking about is a life form that is evolving and existing in an atmosphere where it is not supposed to. Which simply goes to show that there really is a God, and there are some things that man will never figure out.

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