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Plant-Uptake of Uranium: Hydroponic and Soil System Studies

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Limited information is available on screening and selection of terrestrial plants for uptake and translocation of uranium from soil. This article evaluates the removal of uranium from water and soil by selected plants, comparing plant performance in hydroponic systems with that in two soil systems (a sandy-loam soil and an organic-rich soil). Plants selected for this study were Sunflower ( Helianthus giganteus ), Spring Vetch ( Vicia sativa ), Hairy Vetch ( Vicia villosa ), Juniper ( Juniperus monosperma ), Indian Mustard ( Brassica juncea ), and Bush Bean ( Phaseolus nanus ). Plant performance was evaluated both in terms of the percent uranium extracted from the three systems, as well as the biological absorption coefficient (BAC) that normalized uranium uptake to plant biomass. Study results indicate that uranium extraction efficiency decreased sharply across hydroponic, sandy and organic soil systems, indicating that soil organic matter sequestered uranium, rendering it largely unavailable for plant uptake. These results indicate that site-specific soils must be used to screen plants for uranium extraction capability; plant behavior in hydroponic systems does not correlate well with that in soil systems. One plant species, Juniper, exhibited consistent uranium extraction efficiencies and BACs in both sandy and organic soils, suggesting unique uranium extraction capabilities.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Civil Engineering, University of Colorado, Denver, CO, 80217 2: USGS national Water Quality Laboratory, Dener, CO

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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