The long-term safety of final disposal of spent nuclear fuel in the deep geosphere is dependent on stability of biogeochemical conditions at the disposal site. Microbial processes, such as sulphate reduction and methanogenesis, may have profound effects on site biogeochemistry. In this study, sulphate-reducing bacteria and methane-producing archaea were investigated at depths ranging from 68 to 545 m in crystalline rock fractures at an intended spent nuclear fuel disposal site in Olkiluoto, Finland. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis detected diverse sulphate-reducing bacterial communities in all samples. Although the number of dsrB gene copies was below 103 copies ml−1 in all analyzed samples according to real-time quantitative PCR, their abundance was highest in samples that had the highest sulphate concentrations. Several distinct mcrA gene fragments were also recovered from most of the analyzed samples by cloning, although the number of methanogens was lower than that of sulphate-reducing bacteria when measured by mcrA-targeted quantitative PCR. The detected gene fragments were most closely related to sequences obtained from aquatic and deep subsurface environments. Results imply that sulphate reduction, methanogenesis, and anaerobic methane oxidation may all take place in the Olkiluoto deep geobiosphere.
Nyyssönen, M., Bomberg, M., Kapanen, A., Nousiainen, A., Pitkänen, P., & Itävaara, M. (2012). Methanogenic and sulphate-reducing microbial communities in deep groundwater of crystalline rock fractures in Olkiluoto, Finland. Geomicrobiology Journal, 29(10), 863-878. https://doi.org/10.1080/01490451.2011.635759