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Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Field Studies at Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Sites

The U.S. Department of Energy has a 50-year legacy of environmental problems resulting from the production of nuclear weapons. DOE's Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for safely managing this legacy through a comprehensive program of environmental remediation, waste management and facility transitioning. DOE's Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER) has a long tradition of supporting fundamental research in the life and environmental sciences. As part of BER, the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program is providing the scientific understanding needed to use natural microbial processes and to develop methods to accelerate these processes for the bioremediation of contaminated soils, sediments and groundwater at DOE facilities. The NABIR Program is focused on bioremediation of radionuclides and metals in the subsurface using a combination of laboratory, field and theoretical research. NABIR research commonly alternates between the laboratory and the field, developing a strong theoretical foundation based on realistic conditions that are found at contaminated field sites. The long-term NABIR mission is to develop a body of knowledge that will support environmental restoration and long-term stewardship of DOE's contaminated sites.

To accomplish this mission, the NABIR Program requires access to field sites to conduct basic research. DOE-EM is responsible for cleaning up Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) sites such as those at Rifle, Colorado Shiprock, New Mexico and Gunnison, Colorado providing opportunities for NABIR field research. The NABIR Program has collaborated with the UMTRA Groundwater Project to conduct groundwater and soil sampling at Rifle, Shiprock and Gunnison. NABIR's role is one of conducting basic research for the benefit of all DOE sites; decisions about use of those results for remediation belong to the site managers, regulators and site owners such as the Navajo Nation or the overnment of Gunnison County. Currently, the NABIR Program collaboration with the UMTRA Groundwater Project is focused on the Old Rifle UMTRA Site.

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