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Algae holds promise for nuclear clean-up

Organism's ability to distinguish strontium from calcium could help in dealing with nuclear waste. Common freshwater algae might hold a key to cleaning up after disasters such as Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident, scientists said yesterday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California.

The algae, called Closterium moniliferum, are members of the desmid order, known to microbiologists for their distinctive shapes, said Minna Krejci, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. But the crescent-shaped C. moniliferum caught Krejci's eye because of its unusual ability to remove strontium from water, depositing it in crystals that form in subcellular structures known as vacuoles ā€” an knack that could include the radioactive isotope strontium-90.


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