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Title: Radiochemically-Supported Microbial Communities: A Potential Mechanism for Biocolloid Production of Importance to Actinide Transport

Due to the legacy of Cold War nuclear weapons testing, the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site (NTS)) contains millions of Curies of radioactive contamination. Presented here is a summary of the results of the first comprehensive study of subsurface microbial communities of radioactive and nonradioactive aquifers at this site. To achieve the objectives of this project, cooperative actions between the Desert Research Institute (DRI), the Nevada Field Office of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Underground Test Area Activity (UGTA), and contractors such as Navarro-Interra (NI), were required. Ultimately, fluids from 17 boreholes and two water-filled tunnels were sampled (sometimes on multiple occasions and from multiple depths) from the NNSS, the adjacent Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), and a reference hole in the Amargosa Valley near Death Valley. The sites sampled ranged from highly-radioactive nuclear device test cavities to uncontaminated perched and regional aquifers. Specific areas sampled included recharge, intermediate, and discharge zones of a 100,000-km2 internally-draining province, known as the Death Valley Regional Flow System (DVRFS), which encompasses the entirety of the NNSS/NTTR and surrounding areas. Specific geological features sampled included: West Pahute and Ranier Mesas (recharge zone), Yucca andmore » Frenchman Flats (transitional zone), and the Western edge of the Amargosa Valley near Death Valley (discharge zone). The original overarching question underlying the proposal supporting this work was stated as: Can radiochemically-produced substrates support indigenous microbial communities and subsequently stimulate biocolloid formation that can affect radionuclides in NNSS subsurface nuclear test/detonation sites? Radioactive and non-radioactive groundwater samples were thus characterized for physical parameters, aqueous geochemistry, and microbial communities using both DNA- and cultivation-based tools in an effort to understand the drivers of microbial community structure (including radioactivity) and microbial interactions with select radionuclides and other factors across the range of habitats surveyed.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5]
  1. Desert Research Inst., Nevada University, Reno, NV (United States)
  2. Princeton Univ., NJ (United States)
  3. Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV (United States)
  4. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
  5. Northwest Missouri State Univ., Maryville, MO (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Final Report
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Desert Research Inst., Nevada University, Reno, NV (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States