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Impact of radionuclides and radiation on bacterial populations in the contaminated soil of Chernobyl

Nicolas Thédorakopoulos has defended his thesis on 20th December 2013 in Cadarache.

Document type > *Mémoire/HDR/Thesis

Keywords >



Publication Date > 20/12/2013


The nuclear power plants accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima demonstrate the importance of the understanding of the transfer of the radioactive contamination in the environment and its ecological consequences. Although certain studies have been realized on superior organisms of the food chain, studies on telluric bacterial communities are scarce. The latter play nevertheless an essential role in the mobility of contaminants in soils by decreasing or improving their transfer towards other compartments (water, vegetables and animals). Moreover radionuclides (RNs) can have toxic effects on bacteria, leading to an inhibition of their participation in such transfer. The objectives of this study were (1) to estimate the impact of the radioactive contamination on bacterial communities belonging to a soil of the Chernobyl exclusion zone (trench T22) and (2) to study the uranium-bacteria interactions of a resistant strain, isolated from this soil. The various techniques used to characterize the bacterial diversity (culture of bacteria, DGGE, 454 pyrosequencing) all testified of the multiplicity and the abundance of the bacterial communities in spite of the contamination. An impact on the community structure was difficult to assess by DGGE or cultural approach, but was nevertheless highlighted by the use of pyrosequencing, suggesting the presence of species more adapted to the contaminated soil conditions. A specific molecular tool dedicated to the search of bacteria affiliated to the known radiation resistant Deinococcus-Thermus phylum (for example the Deinococcus radiodurans specie survives after an irradiation of several kGy) was developed. However it did not reveal the presence of bacteria affiliated to such a phylum in the studied soil. In parallel to the study of the bacterial biodiversity, about fifty culturable bacteria were isolated from this site and were used as a support to select a species (Microbacterium) capable to survive strong U(VI) concentrations. The characterization of the interactions between the selected bacteria isolate (Microbacterium) and U(VI) highlighted an active mechanism of detoxification which involves an efflux of the U(VI) entering the cell and an intracellular precipitation of U(VI) in form of autunite.


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