Home > World of the Strange – Weird Science > Mystery bacteria growing on nuclear fuel rods have unknown DNA sequence.

Mystery bacteria growing on nuclear fuel rods have unknown DNA sequence.

Published: September 7th, 2012 By ENE News.  Source: Augusta Chronicle  Author: Rob Pavey

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A mysterious, cobweblike growth with a fondness for Savannah River Site’s spent nuclear fuel has been identified – but not formally named.

“We did a genetic analysis and found a diverse population of mostly bacteria,” said Christopher Berry, the senior technical adviser of the Savannah River National Labortory.

A mysterious, cobweblike growth at Savannah River Site first observed in October has been identified but not given a name.  SPECIAL

 

A mysterious, cobweblike growth at Savannah River Site first observed in October has been identified but not given a name.

The “white, stringlike” substance was first observed in October among old fuel assemblies submerged in the site’s L Area basin, where nuclear materials from foreign and domestic research reactors are stored and guarded.

Although the growth was deemed harmless, its ability to thrive and spread in such an unusual environment prompted a more detailed analysis.

“We were able to identify a large portion of the bacteria making up the cobwebs, but there were certainly some where the DNA sequencing came back as unknown,” Berry said.

Although rare, bacterial colonies have been observed in a few nuclear environments, including a Canadian reactor and at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, where a growth developed in the site’s spent fuel basin after its 1979 accident.

Scientists at SRS still have one more local mystery to solve.

“Right now we are trying to figure out what these bacteria are using for food,” Berry said. “In other words, what is their carbon source?”

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