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Systems Biology for Energy and the Environment

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Genomic Science Program

August 6, 2003 News Brief

Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Highlighted in the San Francisco Chronicle
The July 14 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle featured an article in the Science section devoted to bioremediation research funded by the Office of Science NABIR program. "Mining bacteria's appetite for toxic waste--Researchers try to clean nuclear sites with microbes," was authored by well-known science writer, David Perlman. The article noted that scientists are exploiting the "unusual appetites" of some microbes as a way to clean up nuclear sites. Dr. Craig Criddle, an environmental engineer at Stanford University, is working with microorganisms that can convert soluble uranium into an insoluble form. Criddle's work includes research at the NABIR Field Research Center at the Oak Ridge Reservation. In collaboration with ORNL scientists, he is identifying and controlling environmental factors that might inhibit or enhance the process of uranium precipitation. Criddle hopes that "after bacteria consume radioactive waste, the uranium can be separated from water like sand, and gathered like a common mineral." The article also describes NABIR funded research by Dr. Derek Lovley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Lovley is currently performing a field experiment at a Uranium Mill Tailing Remedial Action (UMTRA) site in Rifle, CO. The goal of the experiment is to enhance the growth of naturally-occurring microbes called Geobacter to bioremediate uranium-polluted ground water at the site. The article noted that genomes of several species of Geobacter have been sequenced by The Institute for Genomic Research and the DOE Joint Genome Institute. The genome sequencing was funded by the DOE Microbial Genome and Genomes to Life Programs.

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