One of the junior members here came up with the idea of using genetically modified bacteria to break down Nuclear waste. Although this seemed a very advanced and technical proposition for us, we decided to do some research on the subject and were amazed to find that scientists showed that bacteria could be used to ‘recycle’ Uranium in 1995.
The process was improved right here in Birmingham. In 2009 researchers at Birmingham University found that E.Coli bacteria breaks down phytic acid and releases phosphate molecules, which bind to uranium to create a precipitate which can be harvested to recover uranium. More details here.
Whilst there has been some disappointment that we can’t now patent the process, it’s encouraging to know that ideas being developed here are being put to practical use, if only by other people!