Operated by Électricité de France, the sister units at Chooz-B and Civaux are the largest nuclear generating units in the world. (Photo courtesy Omega Concept)

Operated by Électricité de France, the sister units at Chooz-B and Civaux are the largest nuclear generating units in the world. (Photo courtesy Omega Concept)

Environment News Service reports that Coccomyxa actinabiotis, a single-celled green alga that can tolerate extreme conditions, may soon be widely used to clean up radioactive effluents and wastewater from nuclear facilities in an inexpensive and environmentally-safe manner.

The microalga is extremely resistant to radioactivity and can handle a radiation dose of 20,000 grays (Gy), about 2,000 times the lethal human dose, while it strongly accumulates radionuclides.

Scientists in France discovered the alga – which uses photosynthesis and metabolic processes to take up contaminants — in a cooling pool for spent fuel at a French nuclear facility. After analyzing the properties of this unique species, researchers now foresee new cost effective strategies for the bioremediation of radioactive contamination.

Inventors Corinne Rivasseau, Emmanuel Farhi, Alain Coute, and Ariane Atteia have applied for a U.S. patent for Coccomyxa actinabiotis as a radioactive cleaning agent. The potential of the alga is being explored by the research team, which includes scientists from Grenoble University, Montpellier University and Institut Laue-Langevin.