Durable bamboo might protect SRS soil

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Bamboo is legendary for its ability to grow anywhere and resist efforts to kill it. Now some of the U.S. Energy Department's top scientists are experimenting with the invasive plant to determine whether it could help protect buried nuclear waste.

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The U.S. Energy Department is testing invasive bamboo to gauge its suitability as a vegetative cover for nuclear waste burial sites.  Bruce Cadotte/Savannah River National Laboratory
Bruce Cadotte/Savannah River National Laboratory
The U.S. Energy Department is testing invasive bamboo to gauge its suitability as a vegetative cover for nuclear waste burial sites.

"The concept of using bamboo as a cover species is new," said Eric Nelson, a scientist in Savannah River National Laboratory's Environmental Analysis Section. "In the past, people have mainly looked at grasses and perennial covers."

Buried radioactive waste at Savannah River Site is usually topped with layers of soil and then planted with a vegetative cover to prevent erosion or unwanted intrusion from seeping water.

"The problem with grasses is that they require maintenance and fertilization to keep it healthy," Dr. Nelson said. "Bamboo is very adaptable to colonizing areas without much care at all. It's also very aggressive."

Although there are more than 1,000 species of bamboo, just two -- P. bissetii and P. rubromarginata -- were selected for testing in a one-acre plot in 1999. Then they were ignored and allowed to grow and spread, Dr. Nelson said.

The two species have root systems that remain in the top few inches of soil but also have the ability to withstand cold climates.

"These are very slender and probably only get to be 12 or 14 feet tall," he said. "They're not as big as the stocky plants you see at old home sites."

The testing of the plants will likely continue for several more years to gauge their suitability as a cover.

The research, he added, might find that the bamboo is a useful environmental remediation tool for other types of landfills and waste burial sites. "Our efforts are obviously toward the closure sites for the radioactive waste vaults," Dr. Nelson said. "But there is no reason they couldn't be used on other types of landfills as well."

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (15) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/18/10 - 07:32 am
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Just great. Instead of

Just great. Instead of burying radioactive wastes deep inside Yucca Mt. we cover it up with bamboo right here at SRS. When that bamboo grows to 50 ft., spouts legs and starts to head toward Augusta like that army of cards chasing Alice, we'll all be sorry.

bettyboop
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bettyboop 01/18/10 - 08:05 am
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riverman..have you ever tried

riverman..have you ever tried to dig up bamboo?Once that stuff takes hold its like concrete to get through.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/18/10 - 08:14 am
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It’s going to grow these real

It’s going to grow these real ugly radioactive feet that look like someone’s toenails who needs to enter the MCG fungus medicine trials. They will pull these right out of the ground and begin the march on nearby towns. The New Ellington sheriff will first try to hold them off to no avail because the small town sheriff always has first shot at the monster in the movies.

Fundamental_Arminian
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Fundamental_Arminian 01/18/10 - 08:20 am
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What if the bamboo blooms and

What if the bamboo blooms and dies? I've read articles on how bamboo-eating pandas came to face starvation after their bamboo forests bloomed and died. Has SRS developed a non-blooming variety of bamboo?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/18/10 - 08:23 am
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I did try to dig up some

I did try to dig up some pampas grass one summer. I worked three days on it before I finally passed out. It remains to this day.

LancelotLink
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LancelotLink 01/18/10 - 08:23 am
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I'm more worried about the

I'm more worried about the "stuff" escaping and taking over like kudzu has.

LancelotLink
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LancelotLink 01/18/10 - 08:25 am
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They might as well just plant

They might as well just plant crab grass and dandelions.....

bettyboop
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bettyboop 01/18/10 - 08:25 am
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LOL @

LOL @ riverman.......................

SCEagle Eye
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SCEagle Eye 01/18/10 - 09:13 am
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Finally a solution to

Finally a solution to cleaning up the host of nuclear and toxic waste dumps at SRS. Now, we can bring in spent fuel, reprocess it and create more deadly liquid waste, right?

LancelotLink
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LancelotLink 01/18/10 - 09:26 am
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SCEagle, make it liquid then

SCEagle, make it liquid then tote it out to the Gulf Stream and dump it overboard and send it to Europe!

fiscallyresponsible
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fiscallyresponsible 01/18/10 - 11:24 am
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How about some Kudzu? That

How about some Kudzu? That worked out pretty well for the DOT.

corgimom
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corgimom 01/18/10 - 11:37 am
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"real ugly radioactive feet

"real ugly radioactive feet that look like someone’s toenails who needs to enter the MCG fungus medicine trials" ROTFLMAO!

TRAINDRIVER
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TRAINDRIVER 01/18/10 - 02:01 pm
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I bet they could grow some

I bet they could grow some "killer" pot.

Chillen
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Chillen 01/18/10 - 02:21 pm
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Slow news day.

Slow news day.

commentator
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commentator 01/18/10 - 11:49 pm
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are they doing any studies on

are they doing any studies on how it will mutate, from growing in radioactive soil?From Killer Kudzu to Glow in the dark Bamboo

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