Nitrate-Stimulated Release of Naturally Occurring Sedimentary Uranium

Jeffrey P. Westrop, Pooja Yadav, P. J. Nolan, Kate M. Campbell, Rajesh Singh, Sharon E. Bone, Alicia H. Chan, Anthony J. Kohtz, Donald Pan, Olivia Healy, John R. Bargar, Daniel D. Snow, Karrie A. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Groundwater uranium (U) concentrations have been measured above the U.S. EPA maximum contaminant level (30 μg/L) in many U.S. aquifers, including in areas not associated with anthropogenic contamination by milling or mining. In addition to carbonate, nitrate has been correlated to uranium groundwater concentrations in two major U.S. aquifers. However, to date, direct evidence that nitrate mobilizes naturally occurring U from aquifer sediments has not been presented. Here, we demonstrate that the influx of high-nitrate porewater through High Plains alluvial aquifer silt sediments bearing naturally occurring U(IV) can stimulate a nitrate-reducing microbial community capable of catalyzing the oxidation and mobilization of U into the porewater. Microbial reduction of nitrate yielded nitrite, a reactive intermediate, which was further demonstrated to abiotically mobilize U from the reduced alluvial aquifer sediments. These results indicate that microbial activity, specifically nitrate reduction to nitrite, is one mechanism driving U mobilization from aquifer sediments in addition to previously described bicarbonate-driven desorption from mineral surfaces, such as Fe(III) oxides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4354-4366
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 14 2023


  • microbial nitrate reduction
  • uranium oxidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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