Temperature-dependent microbial reactions by indigenous microbes in bentonite under Fe(III)- and sulfate-reducing conditions

Su Young Park, Yidan Zhang, Edward J. O'Loughlin, Ho Young Jo, Jang Soon Kwon, Man Jae Kwon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Bentonite is a promising buffer material for constructing spent nuclear fuel (SNF) repositories. However, indigenous microbes in bentonite can be introduced to the repository and subsequent sealing of the repository develops anoxic conditions over time which may stimulate fermentation and anaerobic respiration, possibly affecting bentonite structure and SNF repository stability. Moreover, the microbial activity in the bentonite can be impacted by the heat generated from radionuclides decay. Therefore, to investigate the temperature effect on microbial activities in bentonite, we created microcosms with WRK bentonil (a commercial bentonite) using lactate as the electron donor, and sulfate and/or ferrihydrite (Fe(III)) as electron acceptors with incubation at 18 ℃ and 50 ℃. Indigenous WRK microbes reduced sulfate and Fe(III) at both temperatures but with different rates and extents. Lactate was metabolized to acetate at both temperatures, but only to propionate at 18 ℃ during early-stage microbial fermentation. More Fe(III)-reduction at 18 ℃ but more sulfate-reduction at 50 ℃ was observed. Thermophilic and/or metabolically flexible microbes were involved in both fermentation and Fe(III)/sulfate reduction. Our findings illustrate the necessity of considering the influence of temperature on microbial activities when employing bentonite as an engineered buffer material in construction of SNF repository barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133318
JournalJournal of hazardous materials
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Mar 5

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Bentonite
  • Indigenous microbes
  • Iron-reducing bacteria
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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