Biosorption, a process which allows bio masses to concentrate and bind contaminates on its cellular structure, is frequently used to remove heavy metals from industrial waste water to help with environmental cleanups. But now, it's being trailed to clean up one of the worst potential disasters of our time, radioactive waste.
Following an explosion in 1977, Dounreay, Scotland was the scene of one of the worst environmental disasters in the UK. The situation is so bad that in 2011, some 34 years since the disaster, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency abandoned the cleaning up of the north coast of Scotland. Now, scientists at the Environmental Reserach Institute (ERI) in Scotland are researching the use of waste coffee grounds, seaweed, crab shells, and spent whiskey grains to absorb strontium - 90 percent in liquid waste inside Dounreay's Shaft. By testing a variety of biodegradable materials, researchers are able to determine the best material for the job.
As Mike Gearhart, who leads the Dounreay Shaft and Silo project team said, "we are pleased to be working with ERI to identify a sustainable solution that can be sourced locally. We still have a number of issues to address but results to date have been very promising."
If it works, the research has the potential to help clean up other radioactive dumping grounds using environmentally friendly methods rather than man made solutions.