BER Research Highlights

Search Date: June 27, 2017

11 Records match the search term(s):


November 26, 2003

EMSL Supercomputer Ranked Number 5 in Top 500

On November 16, 2003, the Top 500 list of fastest supercomputers in the world was released. The new Hewlett-Packard (HP) supercomputer that was recently installed at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) in Richland, Washington, was ranked number 5 in the top 500 list. The ranking of top supercomputers is based on their performance running a benchmark called Linpack, which is a method to measure a machine's ability to solve a set of dense linear equations. The new 11.8 teraflop HP system at the EMSL consists of nearly 2,000 1.5 GHz IntelĀ® ItaniumĀ®-2 processors. The EMSL is a National Scientific User Facility located at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The new HP system was specifically designed for users seeking large-scale environmental, biological, and chemical science computational capabilities. Allocations of time on the HP system are therefore granted in large blocks to multi-institutional research teams on a competitive proposal basis. Further information on the EMSL is available at [website].

Contact: Paul E. Bayer, SC-75, (301) 903-5324
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


November 05, 2003

Subsurface Microbial Community Stimulated to Immobilize Uranium Plume

The first demonstration of a feasible process for the in situ immobilization of uranium as a bioremediation strategy was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Massachusetts, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee, and several other institutions. Under field conditions, the team demonstrated that microorganisms can be stimulated to immobilize uranium in the subsurface. This interdisciplinary research was published in the October issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and featured in an on-line Science Update for the international journal Nature on October 13, 2003. The team conducted a two month field study and demonstrated that by adding acetate to the subsurface, they could stimulate the growth and proportion of Geobacter species within the subsurface microbial community. At the same time, the concentration of uranium (U) in the ground water was greatly reduced. During this first field experiment, uranium reduction was not maintained due to the onset of sulfate reduction and a corresponding change in the microbial community. However, a second field experiment has now successfully addressed the sulfate reduction problem by increasing the acetate concentration.

Contact: P. Bayer, SC-75, 3-5324
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


October 15, 2003

Kristin Bowman-James to Receive American Chemical Society Midwest Award

The 2003 Midwest Regional Award of the American Chemical Society will be presented to Dr. Kristin Bowman-James, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kansas. Dr. Bowman-James is being honored for noteworthy contributions to the design of large molecules that selectively bind metals or negatively-charged ions, and is considered a leading expert in this field known as supramolecular chemistry. Her research is funded by the Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research. The EMSP support was recently renewed, with a focus on finding supramolecular agents capable of selectively extracting sulfate ions from radioactive waste mixtures. Removal of sulfate ions from these mixtures would reduce the volume of high-level wastes that must be stored for long periods of time. The research is being carried out in collaboration with scientists at the University of Texas, Austin, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Contact: Roland F. Hirsch, SC-73, (301) 903-9009
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-73 Medical Sciences Division, OBER)


August 06, 2003

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.

Contact: Anna Palmisano, SC-75, 301-903-9963
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


August 06, 2003

Theoretical Modeling of High-Level Radioactive Waste Components Featured on Cover of Journal of Physical Chemistry

Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory (NDRL) have developed a new computational model of the interactions between solvent molecules and negatively charged ions (anions), particularly those composed of a central atom surrounded by multiple oxygen atoms (oxyanions). Several oxyanions are significant components of the contents of the high-level radioactive waste tanks at the Hanford and Savannah River sites; however, existing models were unable to predict the thermodynamic properties of these species with the accuracy needed for cleanup applications. The PNNL and NDRL scientists found that the errors in these models could be reduced significantly by using a better description of size and geometry of the cluster of solvent molecules surrounding a dissolved oxyanion. For example, in an aqueous solution, the central nitrogen atom in a nitrate ion has a much larger radius and the oxygen atoms much smaller radii than previously assumed. Examination of the electrostatic potential around a dissolved nitrate ion, and of the interactions between the nitrate ion and the surrounding water molecules, showed that the new description is more consistent with the fundamental chemical interactions that govern oxyanion solvation than previous models. The new model can reliably predict the free energy of solvation of several oxyanions of interest in high-level radioactive waste, including perchlorate, formate, nitrate, and nitrite. This information is needed for predicting the evolution the chemistry of the wastes, both during storage in tanks and during treatment and processing. These results were published in the July 31, 2003 issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry A, which also features a diagram of the new model of the nitrate ion on the cover. This work was supported by the Environmental Management Science Program and made use of the Molecular Science Computing Facility at the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL.

Contact: Roland F. Hirsch, SC-73, (301) 903-9009
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-73 Medical Sciences Division, OBER)


July 03, 2003

Trees Preserve History of Contaminant Exposure

There is disagreement on whether analysis of annual rings from trees growing in contaminated areas provides information on a tree's contaminant exposure history. Tracy Punshon at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) used synchrotron x-ray microanalysis at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source on extracted cores from black willow trees to show that this past disagreement is due in part to an inability to determine the spatial distribution of metals in tree core samples. This novel analytic approach enables the study of the in situ distribution, concentration, and chemical binding environment of metals in environmental samples  a far more informative technique than traditional wet-chemistry methods, which involve drying, grinding and digestion of samples in acids. Punshon's work shows that trees from metal-contaminated areas do have a signature of metals in their annual rings that corresponds with historic information on the timing of contaminant exposure. However, a tree can only be used as an indicator of its contaminant history if it has not experienced excessive toxicity. Over time, trees can adapt to their environment, enabling them to avoid high-level pockets of contaminants, reducing the amount of contaminant they take up. Knowing this may help scientists to more accurately interpret tree ring data in the future.

Contact: Henry Shaw, SC-75, 301-903-3947
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


June 04, 2003

Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Highlighted at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM)

The ASM meeting, which drew over 15,000 attendees, was held in Washington, D.C., on May 19-22. NABIR funded research was presented in six invited talks and over 45 additional scientific papers. NABIR researchers reported their findings in a full-day session entitled Bioreduction of metals and bioremediation of metal-contaminated soils, as well as sessions on Subsurface microbiology, Environmental restoration microbiology, Molecular microbial ecology and others. Highlights included research by Dr. Joel Kostka (Florida State University) who has identified novel metal reducing microorganisms from acidic, contaminated subsurface sediments at the NABIR Field Research Center at the Oak Ridge Reservation. These microbes are unique and unrelated to any previously cultured metal reducers. Uranium and nitric acid were co-disposed at a number of DOE sites, so the identification of an acid-tolerant metal-reducing microbe is of great importance to bioremediation at those sites. Another highlight was a report by Dr. Ray Wildung (PNNL) on an interesting offshoot of his NABIR-funded research on reduction of the pertechnetate ion (Tc(VII)O4-) by Shewanella putrefaciens. The ion is widely used in imaging; however, the chemical reductant (SnCl2) used in commercial synthesis may result in a number of potentially undesirable competitive ions and reaction products. Dr. Wildung demonstrated the feasibility of using Shewanella isolated from a subsurface environment for an enzymatic reduction of Tc avoiding the potential problems and meeting the medical imaging requirements. Two government patents have been issued for the process and for a prototype kit for hospitals. This project exemplifies how basic research may impact several different fields; in this case, both environmental remediation and medical science.

Contact: Anna Palmisano, SC-75, 3-9963
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


June 04, 2003

Office of Science Research Shines at American Society for Microbiology Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology was held in Washington, DC, the week of May 19. In a meeting that was, overall, dominated by medical microbiology, Office of Science research comprised about 11% of all posters present (some 200 out of a total of about 1800 posters) and about 10% of all oral presentations (nearly 40 of just under 400 presentations). Office of Science staff co-chaired (Marvin Frazier, SC-72; Sharlene Weatherwax, SC-14; Dan Drell, SC-72) or spoke (Ari Patrinos, SC-70) at scientific sessions as did SC-funded scientists. Office of Science research programs that were represented included the Microbial Genome Program, the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Program, the Genomes to Life Program, the Environmental Management Science Program, and the Biotechnological Investigations-Oceans Margin Program. Many other presentations at the meeting represented research not directly funded by SC, but enabled by SC's support for the genomic sequencing of a large number of microbial genomes now being used for a diverse array of experiments.

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-72, 301-903-4742
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-72 Life Sciences Division, OBER)


March 26, 2003

Highlights from the Sixth Annual DOE Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program Grantee/Contractor Meeting

The sixth annual NABIR grantee/contractor meeting was held in Warrenton, VA, on March 17-19, 2003. Over 140 attendees participated including bioremediation researchers from universities and DOE National Laboratories, as well as program managers from the Office of Science and the Office of Environmental Management. The NABIR program supports fundamental research on natural attenuation and immobilization of radionuclides and metals in subsurface environments to decrease risk to humans and the environment. Special sessions were devoted to 1) Numerical modeling in the NABIR program; 2) Research at the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) sites; 3) Lateral gene transfer in microbial communities, and 4) Functional biodiversity of subsurface microorganisms. One highlight of the meeting was a session devoted to research findings from the NABIR Field Research Center at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During this session, a team of investigators from Oregon State University and the University of Oklahoma described how they have performed over 60 push-pull experiments within the contaminated area. These experiments probe the in situ activities of naturally occurring microorganisms and their potential to precipitate uranium and technetium by microbially-mediated reduction. Results revealed that Uranium(VI) could be reduced to the insoluble Uranium(IV) in areas where nitrate (a common co-contaminant) was in low concentration. The reduction of technetium, however, was unaffected by the presence of nitrate. These important findings will lead to the design of more effective remedial strategies for uranium and technetium at contaminated DOE sites.

Contact: Anna Palmisano, SC-75, (301) 903-9963
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


February 26, 2003

EMSP Researcher Elected to National Academy of Engineering

Linda M. Abriola, Horace Williams King Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has been elected to The National Academy of Engineering in recognition of her contributions to advancing our knowledge of contaminant fate and transport in groundwater and subsurface systems. Professor Abriola has been supported by the Environmental Management Science Program since 1996 for research on the migration and entrapment of dense, non-aqueous liquids in heterogeneous porous media. In addition, she served on the NABIR Subcommittee for BERAC. Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made "important contributions to engineering theory and practice, including significant contributions to the literature of engineering theory and practice," and those who have demonstrated accomplishment in "the pioneering of new fields of engineering, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."

Contact: Henry Shaw, SC-75, (301) 903-3947
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


February 05, 2003

Department of Energy (DOE) Scientists Rank Among Highly Cited Researchers in Environmental Studies

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) has released its January 2003 list of 247 highly cited researchers whose work has formed or changed the course of research in the environmental sciences (http://www.highlycited.com/). This prestigious list is international in scope and includes nine researchers, within academia or the DOE laboratories, who are currently supported by research programs in the Environmental Remediation Sciences Division within the Office of Biological and Environmental Research. ISI uses its extensive citation indices to track and assess the influence of researchers papers on the scientific community. Its recognition of these scientists and engineers indicates the impact of DOEsupported research on environmental science and environmental remediation. Highly cited DOE laboratory investigators include:

Highly cited university investigators include:

Contact: Brendlyn Faison, SC-75, (301)-903-0042
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)