Mathematical Modelling of the Effects of Aerobic and Anaerobic Chelate Biodegradation on Actinide Speciation

J. E. Banaszak, J. M. VanBriesen, B. E. Rittmann, D. T. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Biodegradation of natural and anthropogenic chelating agents directly and indirectly affects the speciation, and hence, the mobility of actinides in subsurface environments. We combined mathematical modelling with laboratory experimentation to investigate the effects of aerobic and anaerobic chelate biodegradation on actinide [Np(IV/V), Pu(IV)] speciation. Under aerobic conditions, nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) biodegradation rates were strongly influenced by the actinide concentration. Actinide-chelate complexation reduced the relative abundance of available growth substrate in solution and actinide species present or released during chelate degradation were toxic to the organisms. Aerobic bioutilization of the chelates as electron-donor substrates directly affected actinide speciation by releasing the radionuclides from complexed form into solution, where their fate was controlled by inorganic ligands in the system. Actinide speciation was also indirectly affected by pH changes caused by organic biodegradation. The two concurrent processes of organic biodegradation and actinide aqueous chemistry were accurately linked and described using CCBATCH, a computer model developed at Northwestern University to investigate the dynamics of coupled biological and chemical reactions in mixed waste subsurface environments. CCBATCH was then used to simulate the fate of Np during anaerobic citrate biodegradation. The modelling studies suggested that, under some conditions, chelate degradation can increase Np(IV) solubility due to carbonate complexation in closed aqueous systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-451
Number of pages7
JournalRadiochimica Acta
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Actinides
  • Biodegradation
  • Biological effects
  • Chelates
  • Coupled modelling
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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